Plant Profile: St. John's Wort

Today for the Foraging Journal, we are going to explore the plant profile of St. John's Wort. St. John's Wort or Hypericum perforatum is a yellow 5-petaled flower with powerful antioxidants and healing properties. I've bolded the sections which are in my Foraging Journal and I'm going to guide you through how I would fill out those pages. I would suggest writing what is pertinent to you, don't write word for word. This helps your brain remember the information better. Read other sources - A Forager's Library has a list of great foraging resource books. 

Before we begin, this post is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. Please do your own research thoroughly and take into consideration your own health. Don't eat or use something if you don't know what it is. Forage responsibly.

Latin name: Hypericum perforatum. Hypericum means "above the altar" and this plant was often hung above altars. Perforatum means "perforated" or punctured which is a key to identifying St. John's Wort (more details on that below). It is also called "goatweed" and can be labeled a noxious weed. Wouldn't it be great if instead of spraying this "noxious weed", we controlled it by harvesting it?

Note: I sometimes have nicknames for certain plants. You can create your own too! Chamomile is my "Auntie/Anti" and rose is my heart herb. I have a special nickname for St. John's Wort but I'm not sharing it yet as it pertains to a novel I'm writing. 

Medicinal / Edible / Both: It is both edible and medicinal but mostly used for medicinal purposes. The flowers look lovely fresh on a salad or steeped in gin. 

Season: It is in season in summer. You'll see it bloom prolific like stars lighting up the green sea of weedy foliage come late June.

Nutrients: As little yellow stars themselves, St. John's Wort has an affinity with the sun. It is helpful with seasonal affective disorder in winter months but consuming it can make one more sensitive to the sun. It is also helpful with burns and can be used as outer (light) protectant as a very mild sunscreen.  It is a great nervine or something that calms the nerves and relieves nerve pain.  St. John Wort helps support the liver by speeding up enzymes and can help support your liver's natural function. However because it is so effective in speeding up the enzyme responsible for metabolizing drugs, it is contraindicated for use with many pharmaceuticals. Because it is a nervine and can help liver function, it also helps restore hormonal balance (which is often seen as symptom of sluggish liver) and reduce symptoms of PMS and PCOS.

Overall, St. John's wort is antiviral, antidepressant, anxiolytic, wound healing, nervine, and anti-inflammatory.

Parts to Harvest: Leaves, stems, flowers, blooms

Harvest Tips: When foraging fresh material, flowers are most potent before they bloom! You can hang to dry if you want material to use in winter months (great for a happy tea). Dried flowers don't turn red like fresh do though. Forage only that which is not infested with bugs and nothing too close to the roadside.

Identifying Characteristics: It's species name "perforatum" means perforated and if you peer at the bottom of the leaves in the sunlight, you will see plenty of little holes. It almost looks like bug bites but these are actually glands. The flowers are yellow and 5-petaled and usually grow in clusters. When crushed between fingers, the yellow flowers create a dark red or purple liquid. Isn't that fantastic? The stems are slightly woody with branches. Along nodes at the stem, leaves are oppositely arranged.

Notes about harvest: This section is subject to what you find important but for this plant, I'd like to talk a little about lore. Wort comes from ye old English word "wyrt" which means plant. St. John's Wort is named after St. John the Baptist and is said to bloom on his birthday around the summer solstice.

Supposedly the plant liquid made by crushing the flower was nicknamed "the blood of Christ" and was used to heal wounds especially septic wounds during the Crusades.

Another great thing you can scribe in this area would be cautions to take.

Plans with Harvest: Every year, my priority is to make a St. John's Wort infused oil that I use in a healing balm. I like to nibble on them as a snack or add flowers to salad. Drying for tea for winter months is also a fabulous idea.

Locations Found: What you want to write here might be very specific like a particular location near a field. Overall, it is often found by forests or in sunny fields. 

There is a recipe section after each plant profile. Here's one I plan to include. 

Recipe with St. John's Wort: 

St. John's Wort Infused Oil

From the Kitchen of Apothecary Mary
Fresh St. John's Wort flowers and blooms
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mason Jar

To make an infused oil, fill a jar with 1/4 to 1/3 full with fresh St. John's Wort flowers. It must be fresh flowers to extract all those powerful antioxidants - this will also turn your oil red. I fill the jar with extra virgin olive oil and then leave in sunlight for two weeks. Leaving in sunlight helps prevent against rot since we are using fresh herbal material. It also heats the oil and helps it infuse properly. This is called a solar infusion. The oil turns a lovely shade of red! Some years, it has been darker than others.

For more foraging books, please check out How to Start a Foraging Library post and don't forget to pick up a Foraging Journal so you can record this information for your own keeping!

Happy Foraging!


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