Grow St. John’s Wort for Health and Wellness

You should grow St. John's Wort for its many health and wellness attributes.

by Dawn Combs
PHOTO: Maslov Dmitry/Shutterstock

I grow St. John’s wort for health and wellness reasons every year. We have a native Hypericum species of St. John’s wort that I grow in Ohio, where I live, but H. perforatum grows quite well as a tender perennial. The first year it sprawls and from then on it typically grows to about 2 feet high. St. John’s wort is a summer plant. Its yellow blooms appear in June and after the first major flush, tend to stick around through August.

While doing a bit of inventory tonight I realized that I am down to just a few bottles of St. John’s Wort oil in my shop. I’ve sold several bottles of it recently and that is odd. Most of my sales of this particular oil typically happen in the summer. I haven’t been recommending St. John’s for the typical sunburns, right now there seems to be quite aa few local cases of shingles.

The use of St. John’s wort as a supplement is both ancient and modern. Clinical research has verified the efficacy of many of the folkloric knowledge that has been passed down since the time of the ancient Greeks. Everything from the ground up can be used for various ailments. 

The leaves and unopened blooms are used internally. They typically address issues such as anxiety and depression, but research suggests there might be potential for support of cancer, bacterial and viral diseases and inflammatory disorders. The plant is certainly a star in the nervous system and I have successfully used it as part of several pain formulas.

The flowers are traditionally harvested on St. John the Baptist day. They are bit of the magic of this plant, and probably the reason why there are so many superstitions and stories surrounding it. It was once thought that bringing the flowers in to the house on mid-summers eve would protect against the evil eye and sleeping with a sprig of the plant under ones pillow on St. John’s Eve would ensure a vision of the Saint and his blessing.  Some claimed that the red spots on the leaves appeared at the beheading of Saint John and this is why people still consider the best day to pick the herb to be June 24. 

The yellow flowers of St. John’s wort contain the oil that we use topically. Hidden in plain site is this blood red oil, which you reveal just like magic by rubbing the blossom between your fingers. A 4-6 week sunlight soak in olive oil produces a dark, red oil that is perfect for sunburn, kitchen burns, cuts and wounds. It is also a wonder at supporting damaged or diseased nerve endings. Rub a bit behind the ears for nerve damage derived hearing problems and you might be surprised with an improvement. Back to my original musing at the start of this post.. it is also perfect for the pain, burning and itching of shingles. I first used St. John’s wort in this way with my father-in-law who unfortunately was diagnosed with shingles the day before our first child was born. I couldn’t do anything to fix the problem that he couldn’t visit, but I could help with the pain of the rash.

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If you’d like to grow St. John’s wort for health and wellness, it is hardy in zones 5-9. For us here in Ohio, it tends to fizzle out if subjected to a true deep freeze or harsh winds. Choose a protected spot. You can easily get it started by seeds, cuttings or plant. It likes full to partial shade and is pretty tolerant to most well-drained soil types.

St. John’s wort is fairly rugged, so without too much effort you should be able to grow plenty of material for your family’s nervous system health… or to protect everyone from the evil eye.

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