St Johns wort doth charm all the witches away.
If gathered at midnight on the Saints holy day.
And devils and witches have no power to harm
Those that do gather the plant for a charm.
Rub the lintels and post with that red juicy flower
No thunder nor tempest will then have the power.
~14th C. Old English Poem, author unknown.
Hypericum perforatum also known as St. John’s Wort, St. Joan’s Wort, Chase-Devil, Amber, Fuga daemonum, Goat weed, Klamath weed, Sol Terrestis, Tipton Weed, Baldrsbrow, Tupfel-Hartheu, Mannablod, and Prikkperikum among other names.
The scientific name comes from the Greek hyperekios meaning, over the heath. This is related to its traditional use of hanging the plant over the hearth or shrines to ward against evil. Perforatum, pierced with holes, refers to the leaves having tiny holes in them that let light through.
I personally enjoy that many herbalists shorten the name to SJW which is also used as an acronym for Social Justice Worker. As an herb known for driving off evil, healing wounds, and soothing the nerves and minds of those in torment, I think it is a good name connection to have.
The information provided is for educational purposes only.
Some people are sensitive to St. John’s Wort and develop a rash or skin irritation when in contact with the plant and may be irritated by herbal preparations. Do a skin patch test before using any new herbal preparations and always seek the advice of your health care professional before starting any new supplement or regiment.
Besides its allergenic effects, St John’s wort can interfere with the effects of many prescription drugs, including the antipsychotics risperidone and 9-hydroxyrisperidone (i.e. paliperidone, Xeplion or Invega), cyclosporine, digoxin, HIV drugs, cancer medications including irinotecan, and warfarin.
Combining both St John’s wort and antidepressants could lead to increased serotonin levels causing serotonin syndrome. It should not be taken with the heart medication ranolazine.
Combining estrogen-containing oral contraceptives with St John’s wort can lead to decreased efficacy of the contraceptive and, potentially, unplanned pregnancies.
Consumption of St John’s wort is discouraged for those with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or dementia, and for people using dietary supplements, headache medicine, and anticoagulants.
History and Folklore
Paracelsus was one of the first doctors to concern themselves with St.-John’s wort. However, where it had formerly been used for a plethora of indications including kidney issues, lung ailments, insomnia, depression, and wound healing.
It was Paracelsus, in the 16th century, that first associated it in text with St. John the Baptist. By the 17th century, it was used in his name to exorcize demons.
Similar to various herbal folklore around May day and spring, this summer herb has traditional uses in Midsummer. Supposedly, the unmarried can gather the flowers and sleep with them under their pillow to dream of the one they will marry. I would imagine this would lead to many stained pillows since St. John’s Wort sap bleeds red-purple.
Magic and Medicine
Chakra: Solar Plexus
Energetics: warming, drying, astringent, bitter
Actions: mild nervine, sedative, nervous system trophorestorative, tonic, diuretic, hepatoprotective, astringent, anodyne with an affinity for nerves, antimicrobial, antiviral, inflammation modulator.
Nicholas Culpeper called St. John’s Wort a “singular wound herb.” It is used both internally and externally to treat infected wounds and staunch bleeding in fresh wounds. It benefits skin repair and helps stitch up wounds much faster all while protecting it as an antimicrobial.
St. John’s Wort is masterful at helping with pain, especially pain involving or focused on the nerves and spine.
Its antiviral properties help not only with wounds and protecting the body but especially hand in hand as a nervine for viruses like shingles or other illnesses that cause irritation of the nerves, spine, and head.
Despite its connection to the sun, it is interesting that St. John’s Wort is an aid against burns and heat. After cooling the burn, apply St. John’s Wort oil (an infused oil, not essential oil) to the affected area to reduce inflammation, protect against infection, and promote healing.
Soothing the nerves doesn’t stop with physical pain for St. John’s wort. It is well known as a nervine that fights against depression, anxiety, and other nervous disorders as well as grief, self-doubt, and lack of personal empowerment.
In 2016, the United States National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, stated that St. John’s Wort appears to be as effective as standard antidepressant medications for mild and moderate depression, and that it is uncertain whether this is true for severe depression or for longer than 12 weeks. (That said, every person is different and as the United States National Library of Medicine states regarding antidepressants, one “may have to try a few before finding what works best.”)
I’m a particular fan of using St. John’s Wort to bring warming energy into situations of depression, especially seasonal affective disorder.
The use of the herb against wounds and tormented nerves doesn’t stop in the physical realm. Spiritually, it has a long history of being a protector against all manner of evils.
“[St. John’s Wort] is also dried over Midsummer fires and hung near the window to keep ghosts, necromancers, and other evildoers from the house, and is burned to banish spirits and demons.” ~ Scott Cunningham
When adopted by the Christian church as an herb connected to St. John, its use was specified against demons and witches. It was said to be placed in the mouth of witches on trial to force them to confess the truth or “drive” the evil out of them. I’m not certain of the veracity of this last claim but I like to think if it was, perhaps it instead worked as an aid to those poor souls being harassed, tortured, and killed by the church by acting in its capacity as a healer and light in the darkness. For this reason and others, many opt to call the herb St. Joan’s Wort instead.
Identification and Growing
Native to Asia and Europe but has spread to other continents and now can be found in meadow drainages and foothills in zones 5-9.
A member of the – family growing 1 ½ to 6 ½ feet (50 to 200 cm) and known for its sunny yellow, five-petaled flowers. Look for its oblong leaves growing in opposite patterns and, when held up to the light, the leaves will reveal small dots that sunshine can seep through (thus the name perforatum or perforated leaf). It also has a woody, red stem and when cut or crushed, the sap should stain red.
A hardy perennial. Plant St. John’s Wort in rich soil in the fall to support root development. If healthy, it can support heavy pruning in the spring, otherwise, simply dead head wilted flowers during its flowering season to promote growth.
When harvesting St. John’s Wort for use in herbal remedies it is best to use the fresh herb and only the aerial parts, leaving enough for another harvest in years ahead.
A Solstice Blessing
Sol Terrestis, Sun-on-Earth, is an herb that epitomizes the Summer Solstice. This is when Hypericum perforatum is at peak power and many herbals recommend harvesting the plant on the solstice not only for its healing properties but for its power to drive away evil forces that would do harm.
This blessing is for that purpose. Gather the herb saying:
Chase-Devil, Scare-Devil, Fuga daemonum
Drive off what is fretful.
Amber weed, Blood weed, Sun weed glowing
Banish all that is baneful.
Hang the herb above your altar or shrine space saying
Bane of evil and wounds
Protect this space and those I love within
By the sun
So it is.
[Written by December Fields-Bryant.]