An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum - family: Hypericaceae (Guttiferae) (Clusiaceae) (St. John's Wort Family).

This rhizome-based perennial grows to about three feet high. It has scented oval-shaped leaves and in the spring, summer and fall it bears clusters (terminal cymes) of bright yellow flowers. Following the flowers are capsules which contain many small glossy dark brown seeds. This plant was thought by the ancients to have supernatural powers. It was used by medieval Europeans to protect their houses against devils, goblins and witches. The flowering tops have been traditionally used in Europe as a salad ingredient. The flowering tops have been traditionally used in Europe as a remedy for anxiety, depression, insomnia, nervousness, shingles. Modern American folk use of flowering tops and oil as an external remedy for herpes simplex, shingles, stress, tendinitis and tennis elbow. Some authorities suggest that an extract of flowering tops may prove of value in easing the symptoms of the Attention Deficit Disorder. The flowering tops have also been traditionally used in Europe in a topical ointment or a poultice for bruises, burns, cuts, hemorrhoids, sores, sprains and wounds. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for anxiety, burns, and nervousness, skin irritations and wounds. St. John's Wort oil is used as a topical remedy for back pain, burns, earaches, sciatica, wounds and for nerve pain. Modern American folk use as a remedy for pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and sciatica. Note: side effects may include: dizziness, dry mouth, headaches, high blood pressure, nausea and photosensitivity. Note: do not take St. John's Wort, which is a monamine oxidase inhibitor (MAO), while eating such foods as hard cheese, homemade bread, liver, red wine or other foods that contain tyramine. Note: do not use with oral contraceptives or Valium. Note: may interfere with the effectiveness of many prescription drugs: consult health authorities. Note: do not take if pregnant or nursing. Note: it causes photosensitivity in grazing animals. Note: it may cause photosensitivity in certain individuals, especially those with fair skin. Note: some recommend that sensitive individuals avoid exposure to direct sunlight while taking the herb. Note: at least one study suggests that extended use of this herb along with sun exposure may lead to the development of cataracts in the eyes. Plant yields a reddish dye. Native to Europe. Naturalized in eastern, central and western North America. Naturalized in California. Cultivated as an ornamental in North America. At least three cultivars exist.



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Web page last updated on 22 May 2003.