St Johns Wort – Herbs For Alternative Medicine


St. John’s wort is a woody perennial plant with numerous red flowers. Its leaves are dotted with glands that produce a red oil when pinched.

It is native to many parts of the world including Europe and the United States. It is a wild growing plant in northern California, southern Oregon and Colorado. The plant (wort means “plant” in Old English) was named for St. John the Baptist, because its blood-red flowers are said to bloom on the anniversary of his execution.

Herbalists now know that the flowers of the plant contain hypericin, a substance with germicidal, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant properties.

There are many studies documenting the clinical effects of hypericim as an antidepressant treatment similar to several synthetic antidepressants, but with a minimum of side effects. Hypericin has been demonstrated to increase theta waves in the brain. Theta waves normally occur during sleep and have been associated with deep meditation, serene pleasure and heightened creative activity.

Hypericin inhibits the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain. The herb also inhibits monoamine oxidase (MAO) and works as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI); both are actions similar to drugs prescribed for depression. In Germany, nearly half of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders are treated with hypericin. These blooms also hold high concentrations of chemicals known as flavonoids, which are thought to boost the immune system.

Claims and Common Uses:

  • Relieves anxiety, sleep disorders, nerve pain and depression
  • Inhibits viral infections (including herpes and HIV)
  • Relieves ulcers, gastritis, diarrhea and nausea
  • Soothes the digestive system
  • Relieves menstrual cramping, sciatica, and arthritis
  • Antibacterial remedy for slow healing wounds and burns
  • Effective in the treatment of incontinence and bed-wetting in children.
  • Sometimes used to treat poor blood circulation
  • Being investigated as a treatment for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • May improve perception and clarify thinking processes

Part Used: Young leaves or flowers, and stems

Preparations: Available in tablet form, dried leaves and flowers, tinctures, extract, oil, ointment, capsules, and prepared tea.

  • As a tea: Add 1 to 2 tsp. dried herb to 1 cup boiling water; steep for 15 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups a day.
  • Fresh: Apply crushed leaves and flowers to cleaned wounds.
  • As a tincture: Add 1/4 to 1 tsp. to an 8-oz glass of water and drink daily.
  • As an oil: Use a commercial preparation, or make by soaking the flowers in almond or olive oil until the oil turns bright red.
  • As an ointment: Use a commercial preparation, or make by warming the leaves in hot petroleum jelly or a mixture of beeswax and almond oil.

Side Effects and Warnings of St. John’s Wort: Consult a doctor or an herbalist before using St.-John’s-wort.

  • If you are pregnant or lactating or taking any other anti-depressants like Prozac, check with your physician before taking St. John’s wort. It is not effective for severe depression, and no one should stop taking any prescribed medications for depression without proper medical care.
  • If taken with the antiretrovirals (such as HIV/AIDS medications), St. Johns Wort could actually hinder the activity of these very effective medications.
  • High blood pressure, headaches, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. In the fair-skinned, it can exacerbate sunburn and cause blistering after sun exposure.
  • Avoid the following substances when using St.-John’s-wort: Amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine; amphetamines; asthma inhalants; beer, coffee, wine; chocolate, fava beans, salami, smoked or pickled foods, and yogurt; cold or hay fever medicines; diet pills; narcotics; nasal decongestants. They all contain chemicals that react adversely to hypericin, causing high blood pressure and nausea.
  • Avoid exposure to the sun during treatment, it can cause heightened sun sensitivity when taken in large amounts. Anyone who is hypersensitive to sunlight or is taking other photosensitizing drugs should be cautious.
  • Interferes with the absorption of iron and other minerals
  • St. John’s wort should not be taken with prozac or any other antidepressants
  • St. John’s wort should be taken with meals