The last few days has seen the St John’s Wort finally come into flower. It is a plant that has long been associated with the midsummer. The golden star shaped flowers, blossoming as they do around the solstice are full of the magical properties of solar energy at it’s peak.
It is thought that the early church moved the solstice celebrations from the 21 June to the 23, which was called St John’s Eve, after St John the Baptist. In Wales it is known as the Blessed Plant. Throughout Britain and Ireland bunches of the herb were gathered and flung into the bonfires, as the plant was renowned for bringing peace and prosperity, health to the farm animals and a good harvest. In Scotland it was also hung over doorways for it’s protective powers, especially that of preventing the entry of evil spirits. Its scientific name – Hyperieum – is derived from Greek and means ‘over an apparition, which was chosen by the early botanists to reflect this belief. It is possible that it’s reputation against evil spirits in ancient times could be early recognition of it’s anti depressant qualities.
Dioscorides recommended the plant for treating malaria, sciatica and burns. Infused flower oil can be used to treat bruises, wounds, varicose veins, ulcers and sunburn; and tea made from the flowers were used to reduce pain from anaemia, rheumatism headaches and nervous conditions although it is now considered unsafe by some.
These days it is most well known as an anti depressant treatment, and tablets containing extracts of the herb can be bought over the counter, although you have to be careful as it can interact with other drugs.
The flowers, when combined with alum make a yellow dye, or when with alcohol a violet –red silk dye. The leaves are edible too and can be added to salads