Discovering Herbs: Hypericum (St John's Wort)
- Student who can’t sleep?
- Frazzled mum who worries all the time?
- Feeling low during the menopause?
All of these scenarios and more can be helped by Hypericum, the Sunshine Herb, known all over Europe for its ability to raise the spirits and lift clouds that settle on the mind.
Ancient beliefs around this plant included that it would drive away demons and witches; but by the time Culpeper was writing his herbal books, he was recommending it for melancholy, which is very much what the herb is celebrated for dealing with today.
Hypericum gained its common name of St John’s Wort from the fact that it is in full bloom on the midsummer birthday of St John (24th June). Interestingly, herbal lore, handed down through the generations, specified that the herb should be harvested on this day. We now know that its active ingredients are indeed at their highest levels at this time, but it is hard to see how this was known in the days before delicate measuring equipment was available. Presumably experience of using herbs gathered at different times indicated which periods gave the most effective remedy.
Only the top six inches (15cm) of the plant in full bloom are harvested, as they contain the largest amount of active substances. It is important to note that a whole range of active substances contribute to the effectiveness of this herb, some of which are only found in fresh plant material. Many herbal remedies are found to work best when made from fresh herbs, and one of the reasons is that vital ingredients have not been lost in the drying process.
Hypericum is suitable for cheering those who are sad and calming those who are anxious, but it should not be used for anything more than minor depression or states of anxiety. It cannot be used with other medication as it may increase the rate at which it is jettisoned by the body.
If you are under stress or feeling low, take this herb in the liquid form to benefit from its action as soon as possible.