Latin Name: Hypericum perforatum syn. Hypericum deidesheimense, Hypericum vulgare, Hypericum lineolatum, Hypericum mixtum.

Plant Family: Hypericaceae

Other Names: Chase-Devil, Demon Chaser, Goatweed, Hardhay, Klamath Weed, Rosin Rose, Saynt Johannes Wort, Tipton Weed, Saint John’s Wort, Mille Pertuys & St. John’s Grass.

Description: St John's wort is a perennial plant native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa and is now naturalised in North America and Australia. It grows to a height of 80-100cm on erect stems which are branched at the top. The leaves are 2.5-4cm in length, stalk-less, narrow, oblong, greeny-yellow in colour and covered with tiny ‘perforations’ which give rise to the plant's Latin name ‘perforatum’. The 5-petaled flowers are 2.5-3cm in diameter, golden yellow in colour with tiny black dots around the lower edges of the petals.

Brief History: In Europe in the middle-ages, St. Johns wort was since as a magical herb that could keep away apparitions and demons. It has been used medicinally as a wound healer for centuries, Culpeper says of St. John’s Wort ‘Outwardly, it is of great service in bruises, contusions and wounds, especially in the nervous parts, if it is boiled in wine; made into an ointment, it open obstructions, dissolves swellings, and closes up the lips of wounds.’ The oil known as ‘Oleum Hyperici’ was listed as a preparation ‘to clean foul wounds’ in the first edition of the London Pharmacopoeia in 1617.

Important Benefits of St. John's Wort

Undeniably, St. John's Wort's antidepressant effect is its strongest point. The herb contains a rare combination of antidepressant chemicals that prevent or delay the reuptake of hormones serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, thereby reducing depressive symptoms.

St. John's Wort also works in combatting anxiety and mood swings and in delivering additional energy and pleasure.7,8 This herb may be ideal for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, a condition that occurs during the winter months because of a lack of sunlight and goes into remission during the spring and summer months.9

St. John's Wort aids in enhancing your metabolism and internal clock to battle sleeplessness, irritability and chronic fatigue, and in removing chronic stress hormones from the body, boosting health and cognitive function. This herb is also beneficial for women's health, since it helps reduce sensitivity of pre-menstrual symptoms, improves conditions of women having pre-menstrual and menopausal mood swings and helps alleviate pregnancy-related hemorrhoids or other stretched out areas of the body.

St. John's Wort regulates hormonal activity, too, since its active ingredients have strong effects on hormone regulation. The herb can lessen hypothyroidism symptoms and aids the thyroid gland in producing adequate amounts of hormones.

St. John's Wort's soothing nature and rich concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds can ease pain caused by arthritis, gout, joint discomfort and muscle aches, and help reduce inflammation of the cardiovascular system, helping lower blood pressure levels and stress levels on the heart.

Plus, if you or someone you know is struggling with withdrawal symptoms against cigarettes, alcohol or other addictive substances, St. John's Wort may curb these addictive tendencies. However, studies are still being conducted on this. Other known health benefits of St. John's Wort include:

  • Fighting viral infections: New research highlighted that St. John's Wort could prevent or reduce risk for viral conditions like AIDS and hepatitis. A caveat to this is the high dosage needed for the antiviral effect to take place, raising a person's risk for numerous side effects. Additional research is still needed to determine the proper balance.
  • Helps reduce cancer risk
  • Soothing the nervous system

What Are St. John's Wort's Uses?

St. John's Wort was used as folk medicine for the wounded, especially by the Knights of St. John during The Crusades. During Medieval times, St. John's Wort was used to drive out the "inner devil" in people. Meanwhile, a Swiss alchemist and doctor,10 Paracelsus, recommended St. John's Wort to be used against hallucinations.11

However, St. John's Wort's history of medicinal use actually dates back even further to ancient Greece, where its flowers and leaves were used as a medicine.12 Nowadays, St. John's Wort is common in European countries such as Germany as a natural antidepressant, although therapeutic use is now growing in other parts of the world.

The herb is also used topically via salves or tinctures to speed up the healing process of burns, bruises and scrapes. St. John's Wort stimulates circulation of oxygenated blood to those skin cells to stimulate repair.13,14 St. John's wort's leaves and flowers are harvested, dried and used either as a liquid or tincture, or as a tablet or capsule.15 Herbalists typically use a fluid extract, although St. John's Wort tea and oil are available, too.16,17

Give St. John's Wort Tea a Try

Dried St. John's Wort leaves can be used to make tea.18 Apart from being a good source of flavonoids, phenolic acids, glycosides, rutin, tannins, resins and essential oils, St. John's Wort tea delivers these powerful benefits 

Be wary that this tea can have side effects. For starters, it is not ideal for pregnant or breastfeeding women, since it's linked to drowsiness and increased risk for colic to the baby. It should also be avoided by people suffering from severe mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, dementia or bipolar disorder.21 St. John's Wort tea could cause harmful drug interactions when taken with antidepressant medications.

Furthermore, the tea should be avoided at least two weeks before surgery, as its calming effects could interfere with anesthesia and trigger heart complications. Lastly, St. John's Wort tea can induce photosensitivity, especially if used topically. This can make a patient feel that light is hurting their eyes or that their skin is burning. Although these side effects are rare, it's best to stop taking St. John's Wort tea if these occur.

Helps deal with anxiety, irritability and depression

Lifts spirits and stabilizes emotions to assist with anger and stress management and break through periods of sadness

Assists with calming the nervous system

Reduces chronic fatigue and insomnia

Lessens physical pain due to sore nerves or muscles

Combats inflammation that could trigger muscle pains, sciatica, tennis elbow and other nerve pains

Eases menstrual pain and discomfort

Helps regain hormonal balances, especially among women

Lowers heartburn

Fights free radicals' destructive effects and protects DNA

Enhances the body's defenses and prevents illnesses

Relieves cough, colds and sore throat, and clears chest congestion

heals the liver, helping treat jaundice and hepatitis

Helps treat serious lung problems like bronchitis, asthma and tuberculosis

Calms down spasms in the digestive tract and relieves peptic ulcers

Assists with clearing burns and cleaning edges of wounds and cuts when applied as an infusion

Treats skin rashes

Improves digestion

Allows skin traumas to heal faster

Speeds up tissue recovery, especially those affected by burns

Helps with urinary problems like incontinence and bed-wetting in children