You can be sure it’s summertime when you see these bright yellow St. John’s Wort flowers growing like weeds along the sidewalk, in sun-drenched meadows, and in gardens all around. The leaves and flowers of this plant are well-known for their use as a popular antidepressant when prepared as a tea or tincture and taken internally, but I get most excited about Saint John’s Wort for its topical uses.
When infused into oil or made into a salve, St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum, is an anti-inflammatory and wound-healing agent, is wonderful for burns, and may even work as a sunscreen. That’s why my favorite herbal lip balm recipe is to take a glass jar filled with dried Saint John’s Wort and soothing Calendula flowers, cover it entirely with sunflower oil, use heat to infuse the herbs into the oil (in the hot weather you can use the sun – though it is best to protect the jar from light – or you can use a stove on a very low setting), then strain and mix the oil with melted beeswax in a crockpot and add a few drops of an essential oil (especially peppermint and lavender together!) as a preservative and to scent the product. My friends who have benefitted from my surplus *love* this stuff — it’s amazing! — so if you’re looking for a unique homemade gift you can share, this makes a great one!
St. John’s Wort oil is also useful externally on neuralgia, sciatica, arthritic pain, neck cramps and muscle pain. The oil can be taken internally, as well, for healing stomach ulcers.
You can identify the flower by its bright yellow color, five petals, and many stamens in the middle. Then notice that the small leaves, if plucked and held up to the sky, will appear to have tiny pin holes in them, which is reflected in the second part of its Latin name: perforatum. Squeezing a leaf between your thumb and forefinger will also result in little purple dots staining your finger — this is the hypericin, a medicinal ingredient.
St. John’s Wort grows in almost every state in America, with the exception of Florida and Texas, so if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ll come across it. Best of luck!
Sources: “The Way of Herbs” by Michael Tierra, “Medicinal Plants of the West” by Michael Moore, “Holistic Herbal” by David Hoffman.
Learn more plants on the Search Plants page here.