St. John’s Wort

Scientific Name: Hypericum perforatum

Other Names: Johnswort, St. John’s Grass, Klamath Weed, Hypericum, Zveroboi (Russia), Touch and Heal, Amber, Rosin Rose, Witches’ Herb, Terrestrial Sun, Goatweed

Description: St. John’s Wort is an upright, perennial herb that has a woody stem. It has pairs of 1/2 inch, stalkless leaves that arise from opposing sides of the stems. The leaves are perforated by several “pinholes” that are apparent when they are held up to the light. These are sometimes indicated by black marks on the underside of the leaves. Flowers bloom at the top of each stalk during summer months.

Habitat: St. John’s Wort grows in meadows in Europe. Other Hypericum varieties grow in North America. This herb is also often found invading corn and wheat fields.

Properties: St. John’s Wort demonstrates the following properties: antibacterial, antidepressant, antiseptic, antiviral, aromatic, astringent, bitter, cardiotonic, cold, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, hypotensive, mild, nervine, relaxant, resolvent, sedative, styptic, sweet, tonic, vermifuge. It affects the bladder, blood, intestines, kidneys, lungs, nerves and spleen.

For external uses an oil tincture is made by crushing the flowers and putting them in olive oil. This combination is put in the sun for two weeks, at which time the stock of flowers is renewed. This is applied to hard tumors, swollen breasts, sciatic pain, ulcers, old sores and wounds. A decoction can also be used as a mouthwash to heal diseased gums and eliminate mouth odors.

St. John’s Wort has been used homeopathically for a myriad of complaints including: asthma, concussions, bunions, bruises, hypersensitivities, meningitis, neuralgia, spasms and whooping cough.

Other conditions that have been treated with St. John’s Wort include: anemia, animal bites, anxiety, bed-wetting, bleeding of the lungs, cancer, colic, coughs, diarrhea, dribbling urination, dysentery, exhaustion, gastroenteritis, hemorrhoids, inflammation, insect bites, insomnia, jaundice, kidney stones, malaise, nervous irritability, pain of coccyx, phlegm in chest, PMS, pus in the urine, rabies, scrofula, sinus headaches, sprains, stomach disorders, tension, tuberculosis, ulcers, unrest, wheezing and worms.

Medicinal Uses: Not long ago experiments were conducted on mice infected with viruses similar to HIV. After being given St. John’s Wort extract, the virus’ progress was halted. This led to testing on human HIV and AIDS patients. The results are inconclusive, though anecdotal information reports a significant improvement in some patients.

St. John’s Wort contains hypericin which inhibits monoamine oxidase, a bodily chemical associated with depression. Patients suffering from depression received relief, increased appetite, more interest in life, greater self-esteem and restoration of normal sleeping patterns after taking this herb.

St. John’s Wort is available as tea, tincture, decoction, and oil. Teas should be made with 1-2 cups of flowers per 1 cup of boiling water. This tea can be drunk three times daily. The dosage of the tincture is 1/4 to 1 teaspoon up to three times daily.

Cautions: It has been reported that livestock grazing in pastures with St. John’s Wort have developed extreme photosensitivity which leads to serious sunburns accompanied by blistering. In more grave cases, this has resulted in the death of some cattle. The remedy is, of course, limiting the exposure to sun either by shading the animal or by painting the animal with dark colored dyes. The long use of St. John’s Wort in herbal medicine suggests that these complications are not as serious in humans, although some photosensitivity has been reported by AIDS patients treated with St. John’s Wort. When taking high doses of this herb, one should avoid excessive exposure to sunlight.

General use is one capsule with food three times daily.



A Handbook of Native American Herbs by Alma R. Hutchens (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publishing, 1992).

“An Herb to Know: St. John’s Wort” in The Herb Companion (April/May 1994).

Energetics of Western Herbs, Integrating Western and Oriental Herbal Medicine Traditions, Vol. 2 by Peter Holmes (Boulder, Colorado: Artemis Press, 1989).

Herbs That Heal: Prescription for Herbal Healing by Michael Weiner, Ph.D. and Janet Weiner (Mill Valley, California: Quantum Books, 1994).

The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicines by Michael Castleman (Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 1991).

The Wild Rose Scientific Herbal by Terry Willard, Ph.D. (Calgary, Alberta: Wild Rose College of Natural Healing Ltd., 1991).