Summer is here, and that means the days will gradually be growing shorter again. Seems rather odd, but I’m thinking ahead to the coming winter. Striving to live seasonally is a challenge during those cold winter days. I’d much prefer the warm sun on my back as I play in the garden. A herb that helps me face that challenge is St. John’s wort. In light of the Saint’s celebrated birthday (June 24th), I thought I would share what I know of the herb named after him, and some ideas for crafting with it!
St. John’s wort is a magical, sun-loving perennial with a history richly steeped in spiritual well-being. Before modern science could explain how St. John’s wort works to relieve mild depression, anxiety, and stress, people celebrated this plant for its powers to rid darkness and protect them from evil. Not only is St. John’s wort helpful for the mind, but it has some rather extraordinary healing properties as well. A fitting plant to celebrate, if you ask me.
St. John’s Wort and the Christian Religion
Adding to its magic, St. John’s wort “bleeds.” When pressed between the fingers, a bud or blossom stains the hand with a purplish-red oil. Hypericum perforatum was given its common name because St. John supposedly called upon it quite often for its benefits to heal the body and mind. Though I’ve observed St. John’s wort blossoms prior to the Saint’s birthday, tradition states that the plant blooms on June 24th and “bleeds” on the anniversary of his beheading-August 19th.
Further associations to the Christian religion are found within the plant’s leaves and petals. A great way to determine if you are looking at St. John’s wort is to hold a leaf up to the light of the sun. You should see tiny holes ‘perforating’ the leaves. These holes are symbolic of St. John’s wounds as a martyr. And should you look down at the plant from above, many suggest the four leaves make the shape of the cross.
St. John’s Wort for the Mind
Those of us who have experienced the darkness of mental health disorders know that the worst evil we may go through in this life can come from within our own minds. Whether it’s low self-esteem, a situational depression, or a form of anxiety, we can all feel sad, numb, and scared at any point in time. It’s often the thoughts we think that keep us down and in a place of dark solitude.
Yet, St. John’s wort has the ability to break that cycle of negative, stuck thoughts. The ‘holes’ on the leaves and flowers are actually glands. They emit compounds that can interfere with our brains ability to become stuck in a depressed funk. These compounds are known for increasing the body’s ability to collect light—which is often the reason for feeling blue in the winter when we receive less sunlight.
Furthermore, these compounds are able to enhance our emotional strength by stretching out the neurotransmitters that make us feel good—dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. When these flow through the body for a longer period, we feel less like we are on an emotional rollercoaster—going from highs to lows quickly. In short, the compounds found in St. John’s wort balance the mind.
St. John’s Wort for the Body
St. John’s wort has many health benefits for the body as well. Due to its antiviral properties, St. John’s wort has potential in treating Aids, herpes, and shingles. It is also considered to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which is why it has been used topically to heal wounds and ease sore muscles.
St. John’s wort aids in the absorption of nutrients when taken internally. This makes it a wonderful digestive herb. St. John’s wort brings its balancing abilities to the table by stabilizing stomach acid levels—working to raise or lower them depending on what the body needs. Herbalists will often suggest St. John’s wort to treat ulcers, heartburn, and bloating.
Crafting with St. John’s Wort
If any of this has you thinking about how you might incorporate St. John’s wort into your daily life, look no further! The tutorials and products listed below will help you to do just that. Pick one or try them all, and find what works best for you.
Now is the Time…
Now is the time to enjoy St. John’s wort in all of its blossoming beauty. Sit with it, admiring the flowers, buds, and leaves that open so freely in the bright summer sun. Forage and find some ways to make it last once the summer is gone. Thinking ahead to the winter months and their longer nights, I’m relieved to have a friend in St. John’s wort. One that will brighten my spirits on cold, gray days. But for now, I’ll be glad that its summer and that I can visit with St. John’s wort.
I’m curious. Why and how do you use St. John’s wort? What works best for you?