Chase Away the Blues with St. John’s Wort

Use this cheery nervine topically for burns and nerve injuries or internally as an anti-depressant.

by Dawn Combs
Chase Away the Blues with St. John’s Wort - Photo by Rachael Brugger (
Photo by Rachael Brugger

This weekend was the large community festival here in Columbus, Ohio. We set up a booth for our farm and herbal institute and did quite a bit of sampling of our herbal wares. I’m always intrigued to see what will be picked over the most by the end of any given event. It tells me so much about what is going on in the community at that time.

This weekend our “The Blues” honey spread was far and away the most sampled. That happened only one other time, and I was shocked because we were at a green festival in San Francisco. I thought everyone there would be cheery and upbeat because of all the sunshine. I was wrong. Those three days used up almost an entire sample jar of The Blues. So here we are again, in the summer, experiencing plenty of sunlight and outdoor fun, yet everyone seems to be struggling with anxiety and depression.

When we were in San Francisco a customer suggested I was overlooking the city location of the festival. With so much concrete, most people feel disconnected from nature and tend to get depressed. Perhaps there was a little of that this weekend, though the festival was in a beautiful park, so there might be some flaws to that theory.

The Lore Behind the Herb
As I was thinking of what to share with you to grow in order to combat depression and anxiety, I realized how timely it is. Now is the perfect time of year to harvest St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). Traditionally, this herb has been picked around the feast of St. John on June 23. St. John’s wort has long been associated with St. John the Baptist, but even before then, this plant had quite a history in superstition and magic. It was picked around midsummer and brought into the house to ward off the evil eye.

Oil of a Different Color
You might find many varieties of St. John’s wort in your local nursery, but it is important to find the right kind. H. perforatum leaves, when held up to the sun will contain large, telltale oil spots. The plant can be rather confusing. It is always pictured as a tall plant but often when we first plant it, it tends to run along the ground and stay low. Don’t worry, in the second year you will begin to see it spring up tall and proud.

Chase Away the Blues with St. John’s Wort - Photo by Rachael Brugger (
Photo by Rachael Brugger

St. John’s wort blooms yellow, but it performs the most amazing alchemy when the flowers are infused in oil: They turn blood red. I absolutely love to amaze children by crushing this flower in my fingers to reveal a red stain. The oil, made each year at this time, is a topical marvel for blunt force trauma, damaged nerve endings and viruses that cause irritation in the nerves. I also love it for healing sunburns.

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Beat the Blues
The herb itself, specifically everything above the ground, can be tinctured or dried for use as an anti-depressant. The media has made a big dealabout steering clear of St. John’s wort, but contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t act as an MAO inhibitor in the body. The plant excels as a nervine—that is, a plant that targets the nervous system—and most everyone is able to use it. In fact, I include it in my “The Blues” blend.

Quite a few of jars of “The Blues” honey spread wandered away with new friends over the weekend. I’m happy they are off to help, but of course we all get the best out of our medicine if we take the time to sit in the garden with these cheery plants as much as possible before harvest.

Grow more of Dawn’s favorite herbs:

  • Got Adrenal Problems? Grow Borage!
  • Stay Cool in the Heat with Elder Blossoms
  • False Blue Indigo: A Portal to America’s History
  • How to Grow Goldenseal without a Forest
  • Healing Power of the Easter Lily

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