St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is popular in the herb world today for its role as a natural antidepressant.
However, St. John’s Wort can do more than elevate your mood, and it’s an herb with a unique past.
St. John’s Wort has been used as a medicinal herb for around 2,000 yearsand as a protector against “dark spirits” since the medieval ages.
Christian mystics named St. John’s Wort after John the Baptist. Its bright yellow flowers typically bloom in June around John the Baptist day.
The Latin name Hypericum perforatum translates into “over an apparition,” referring to the idea that just the scent of this sunny herb would cause spirits to flee.
In medieval times, St. John’s Wort was hung on windows as an ornamental plant to ward off spirits and ghosts.
Some people placed a piece of St. John’s Wort under their pillow on St. John’s eve, in the hopes that St. John may then appear to them in a dream and spare them from dying the following year.
In addition to these uses, St. John’s Wort was used as a potent anti-viral for colds, flu and fever; to support kidney function; and relieve diarrhea.
St. John’s Wort was also regularly used as a soothing herbal oil for pain, inflammation, wounds, insect bites, and sunburns.
Western herbalists have been using St. John’s Wort for “dark moods” or feelings of melancholy for many years. Modern science now confirms these benefits.
Analysis of studies and randomized trials show that St. John’s Wort is more effective than placebo and as effective as tricyclic antidepressant drugs in the short-term management of mild to moderate depression.
This is great news for people who want a natural alternative to antidepressant medications that cause side effects like low libido, agitation, weight gain, or fatigue.
While St. John’s Wort has a long history of safe use, there are situations where it’s not appropriate.
Research finds hyperforin in St. John’s Wort may interact with a variety of prescription medications, including antidepressant drugs.
St. John’s Wort should also be avoided before surgical procedures. If you’re taking prescription medication or planning a surgery, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before starting St. John’s Wort.
Further, I find whole St. John’s Wort herb is better tolerated for self-care than standardized St. John’s Wort.
Standardization is the process of extracting and sometimes increasing the potency of certain “active constituents” in a plant. Standardized products tend to have a more drug-like action than whole herbs.
While standardized St. John’s Wort can enhance mood quickly for some people, it can cause side effects like photosensitivity (increased sensitivity to sunlight).
For this reason, I believe standardized products are best used with guidance from a clinical herbalist.
For a gentle mood boost, I recommend using whole St. John’s Wort with all of its protective components intact, in balanced herbal combinations.
St. John’s Wort combines especially well with Kava Kava in Serenity Now Spray for relief of “in the moment stress.”
It’s also synergistic with Bacopa in Calm Mind Daily Tonic for focus and a more relaxed state of mind.
St. John’s Wort is an amazing herb for brighter spirits and a happier mood. Try it for yourself and share your experiences with us!