St John’s Wort
The month of May hails the beginning of summer and there’s no better herb than St John’s Wort to scream ‘summertime’! Look at the bright yellow star or sunray shaped flowers – this is the doctrine of signatures (i.e., where the shape and colour of the plant can indicate therapeutic use). The flower has five petals. In numerology, the number 5 signifies life, vitality, transformation and energy. All the things that we need if we’re feeling a little low.
It is easy to see why this beautiful plant is known as the herbal ray of sunshine. The bright, beautiful flowers would lift the lowest of spirits and is why, for me, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is my Herb of the Month, and which coincides beautifully with Mental Health Awareness Week.
It is thought that St John’s Wort originated in North Africa, West Asia and Europe. It seems to grow freely and quite naturally around the world. Records show that it was used by Native Americans for wound healing and snake bites and was used similarly in the Middle Ages. Today, it is used mainly for insomnia and mild to moderate depression, as well as neuralgic pain.
St John’s Wort – the herbal remedy
Known for its gentle sedative qualities, St John’s Wort is helpful for low mood and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It brings a ray of sunshine to those with the blues. Please note that it is not recommended for longer term and more serious depression.
St John’s Wort relieves the pain of neuralgia, anxiety and tension, to include the associated pain of neuralgic viral conditions (e.g. shingles and cold sores). Sciatica, fibrositis and rheumatic pains are indications for its use as the herb has an anti-inflammatory action. Topically, as a cream or oil, it can help with wound healing, burns, bruises and varicose veins. (1)
St John’s Wort main mode of action is via the hypericin and hyperforin that influence the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin is the mood enhancing neurotransmitter and is one of the main (synthetic) components in antidepressants.
St John’s Wort also contains flavonoids which possess an analgesic (pain reducing) action for nerve-type pains (neuralgia, shingles, sciatica). It has been known to help eliminate toxins from the body and therefore a weight loss aid, as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Hypericum (St John’s Wort) - the Homeopathic Remedy
Many homeopathic remedies – including Hypericum are derived from the plant kingdom and herbs. However, the homeopathic preparations work differently to herbal remedies because they contain minimal amounts of herbal extract (mother tincture) to reduce the risk of side effects. When choosing a homeopathic remedy, Homeopaths refer to the Materia Medica (remedy guide) which includes a section on traditional and herbal usage, so we can draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom, which only increases the scope of breadth of how and when to use the homeopathic remedy.
Hypericum (St John’s Wort) is primarily a homeopathic anti-neuralgia remedy. Known for its healing action for injuries to nerve-rich parts (i.e. fingers, toes, nails, teeth, coccyx). Characterised by shooting pains from injured parts. Injury to brain or spinal cord. Punctured or penetrating wounds and lacerations because it is one of the primary anti tetanus remedies. Post-operative pains and spasms. Animal and insect bites. Puncture wounds. It is also used in depression and melancholy. Ailments from shock. (2)
NB: Always use herbs and homeopathy under the guidance of a professional herbalist or homeopath.
St John’s Wort is sleep-friendly
Through its action in raising serotonin levels, St John’s Wort, in turn, facilitates the production of Melatonin in the body (often called the 'sleep hormone'). Melatonin plays a key role in governing the circadian rhythm which dictates when are awake and asleep. St John’s Wort also has a harmonising affect on the female hormones and is used therapeutically for PMS and in cases of anxiety and irritability caused by menopausal changes.
The Gut Connection
If you’ve been following me, you’ll know about the holy trinity of sleep, gut health and immunity. Added to that, the bidirectional link between sleep and mental health means that anything that helps you sleep will help your mental health and wellbeing generally. You can read my article here. Alternatively, you might be interested in my short webinar on gut health – webinar.
St. John’s Wort, which is among the most researched and used plants in the field of medicine, is especially known for the medicinal properties in depression.
To create any drug, the pharmaceutical industry focusses on what it considers to be the active component of a plant – in the case of St John’s Wort, its flowering tops – and uses this component only. The problem with this approach is that traditional therapists and herbalists know it is the symbiotic interaction of the whole plant that brings the full therapeutic effect as a tonic, rendering the herbal remedy less toxic in terms of side effects.
Furthermore, you can’t patent (i.e. commercialise) natural remedies, hence the quest to isolate any active component of a plant and synthesise it in a lab. Once synthesised, it can be mass produced and, more importantly, patented. That is why pharmaceutical industry is so profitable, and why it continues down this path to the exclusion of other health modalities, despite endemic levels of chronic and underlying health problems.
Here’s a reminder from the very wise Hippocrates,
‘…foolish the doctor who despises and negates the knowledge acquired by the ancients.’
How to get your St John’s Wort fix
I do not suggest you rush out and buy the herbal remedy. Always take herbs with the guidance of a qualified herbalist. The purpose of this blog is to share the broad action of the remedy and that it could be used to help manage your health differently.
Herbal teas are a safe and pleasant way to introduce herbs into your health routine. One or two cups daily would be sufficient to benefit gently from its therapeutic effects.
St John’s Wort oil is a wonderful remedy that can be applied to sun damaged skin, preventing skin cracks and for those with varicose veins. Add one or two drops only to a carrier oil for use on the body. Alternatively, you can diffuse the essential oil in an aromatherapy oil burner.
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Caution: if you are on any medication, please consult your local herbalist for expert advice. Some herbal remedies can interact with medication (because they are effective!) Most proprietary herbal supplements and teas are very low dose but it is recommended that you check before using herbs.
1 1 Hoffman, David, 1990: ‘Holistic Herbal’; Thorsons; ISBN-13 978-0-00-714541-6
2 Murphy, R ND, 2000: ‘Homeopathic Remedy Guide, Second Edition’; H.A.N.A. Press; ISBN: 0-9635764-0-2
3 Herb Facts Herb Facts