St. John’s Wort, Not just for Depression
What it looks like; When it blooms
St. John’s wort or Hypericum perforatum is a shrubby perenial that can grow up to 80 cm tall. It has bright yellow flowers with five petals, and oil glands on the underside of its petals and leaves. The oil is reddish-purple in colour. The aerial parts – leaves, stem and flowers – are used in herbal medicine.
St. John’s Wort blooms in early to mid July. It’s harvested while it flowers or shortly before. If it is harvested later (eg. in the fall) higher amounts of resin can result in nerve sensitivity, and its medicinal effects are reduced. But remember, just because we can harvest something doesn’t mean we should.
How it’s used
The fresh herb can be pressed for juice, or immersed in olive oil for about a month to extract it’s redish-purple oil. The dried herb can be used as a tea or tablet, or submerged in alcohol for about a month and processed to make drops, capsules or ointments. Both the fresh or dried herb can also be used as a poultice. A poultice is where the plant material is placed directly on the skin and kept in place with a cloth
St. John’s Wort in mild to moderate depression
St. John’s Wort is well known for its use in mild to moderate depression. St. John’s Wort can be as effective as some antidepressant medications; with fewer side effects. However, it should not be combined with them. Speak with your healthcare provider before making any changes.
St. John’s Wort’s antidepressant effects are thought to be from a combination of substances the plant produces. They work in a number of different ways. Three of these substances are hyperforin, hypericin and pseudohypericin.
Hyperforin – interacts with many medications. Speak with your healthcare provider before using St. John’s Wort in any way.
Hypericin and pseudohypericin can result in our skin being more sensitive to the sun. This effect is most common in livestock. The recommended doses for humans are typically not high enough to cause this. Still, patients who are sensitive to the sun should be cautious. And, patients taking higher doses of St. John’s Wort should avoid excessive exposure to the sun and UVA light.
Other uses for St. John’s Wort
In addition to it’s antidepressive effect, St. John’s Wort is also generally supportive to the nervous system. It has been used in nervous irritability (eg. menopause, PMS), nerve injuries or afflictions; especially with shooting pains (eg. tailbone injuries, sciatica). It’s also an antiviral against enveloped viruses like herpes and shingles. And, it’s an antimicrobial when applied to the skin. It can also help with wound-healing and bruising, and is often used in products for people with sensitive skin. After childbirth it can be used to help heal the perineum. And, it can also help heal cracked nipples – as long as it’s wiped off completely before baby breastfeeds. St. John’s Wort is also used in psoriasis, in combination with other therapies. And, it can be used in bedwetting, as well as conditions where the bladder is irritated – like interstitial cystitis.
Want to learn more about local herbs?
Register for the 3rd annual Pembroke Herb Walk. It’s a great opportunity to spend some time outside learning about local herbs along the Pembroke Waterfront.
We’ll cover a short distance along the paved path. We’ll start near the Pointer boat memorial, where the boardwalk ends and the paved path begins. We’ll walk past Algonquin College, to the bridge nearby – about a kilometer in total.
Join me Monday, July 11th 2016 at 9:00 am or 5:00 pm. There’s a suggested donation $10. Income tax receipts are available. All proceeds go to the Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County.