An herb that has been used to ward off evil spirits and thwart malicious spells for centuries, recipes using Hypericum perforatum may actually offer some protection from modern day evils. More commonly known as St. John’s Wort, this perennial was named for John the Baptist because it not only bloomed right around the saint’s birthday, the golden yellow flowers resembled a halo to early herbalists and the flowers ‘bled’ when picked. Sprigs of this plant were woven into wreaths and placed under pillows to guard against evil (malignant spirits can’t stand the smell!) and placed in witches’ mouths to force them to confess.
While spirits and spells may be superstition, there is some evidence this plant can help with some psychological evils, such as depression, stress, and anxiety. There are several varieties of Hypericum found in nature, but you can identify this type by holding a leaf to the sun and looking for the tiny oil glands that resemble holes, the “perforatum” in the plant’s Latin name.
A good cup of tea does wonders for our mood regardless of what’s in it, but adding a little St. John’s Wort to your brew might just give you an extra lift. Pour one cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried Hypericum perforatum, let steep for 10 minutes, then strain and sweeten to taste with honey. Mixing St. John’s Wort with other herbs can be helpful for other conditions as well. To reduce stress and anxiety, mix 1 ½ ounces of dried Hypericum perforatum, 1 ounce of dried lemon balm leaves, and 1 ounce of dried valerian. For a bad cough, mix 2/3 of an ounce each of dried thyme and linden flowers instead of the lemon balm and valerian. For migraines, use 1 2/3 ounces of dried St. John’s Wort, 1 ounce each of dried valerian and linden flowers, and ¼ ounce of dried juniper berries. Mix up a few of these brews, then add a teaspoon per cup of boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, strain, and sweeten to taste.
A few drops of tincture made from Hypericum perforatum may also have a beneficial effect on your mood. To make the tincture, fill a pint jar with fresh or dried St. John’s Wort and add 8 ounces of strong Vodka, 100 proof. Let it sit for two weeks, shaking daily, and then strain and transfer the liquid to dropper bottles.
Ingestion of Hypericum perforatum isn’t the only way to reap its benefits; oil infused with St. John’s Wort can help to heal minor cuts and soothe sores. Fill a jar to 2 centimeter from the top with St. John’s Wort, and then add enough cold-pressed olive oil to completely cover the herb. Tightly screw on the lid, then store in direct sun until the oil turns red, about four or five weeks. Strain the liquid before use.
As with any herbal supplement not evaluated by the FDA, you should speak to your doctor before using St. John’s Wort and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid use altogether. Be wary of side effects such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, mood change, or any other indication of adverse reaction. Hypericum perforatum may cause increased skin photosensitivity and reacts with certain prescription drugs. It may also worsen the effects of ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and major psychological illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. St. John’s Wort may interfere with fertility and increase risks of complications in surgery where anesthesia is used.