Many old-time superstitions relate to this plant. The name hypericum is derived from the Greek and means “over an apparition,” referring to a belief that the herb was so obnoxious that one whiff and it would send the demons straight back to hell. I’ve been told of the legend that if you stepped on the plant at dusk, you may be carted off on a magic fairy horse and not be back until the next day.
Connection to St. John the Baptist
For hundreds of years this plant has been used to fend off evil spirits and the devil. The plant is named after St. John the Baptist. It was said to bloom first on his birthday, June 24th, and to bleed red oil from its leaf glands on the day he was beheaded in August. It is believed that the plant is most potent medicinally if it is harvested on June 24th.
Preparations are derived from the leaves and flowers. St. John’s wort contains compounds with potential immune boosting, wound-healing, and antibiotic properties. It is astringent, and the tea is helpful for children to drink at night to stop bedwetting.
The oil of St. John’s wort is made from the flowers infused in a high quality vegetable oil. It is widely used to soothe the skin. It has also been used as a sedative and painkiller and to take the sting and pain out of sunburn. It is being investigated as a bactericide. The blossoms soaked in a high quality vegetable oil make a soothing dressing for cuts. St. John’s wort is also used to increase and induce a sense of well-being and is gathering wide acceptance today as an antidepressant.
It is used to reduce blotches and varicose veins. Cosmetic manufacturers use it to texturize, as an astringent, and add it as a soothing agent. It is useful for wrinkles, dry skin, or as a general healing agent. And a dye of yellow and red can be obtained from the flowering tops and stems.
St. John’s wort contains terpenes and sesquiterpenes, tannins, flavonoids, rutin, hypericin.
Caution: There are reports of animals being photosensitive after digesting the plant.