August Herb of the Month Club: St. John’s Wort

by Jon Oleson

Hypericum-perforatumOur annual solar apex has many names—Summer Solstice, Midsummer, and St. John’s Day to name a few. They say that it’s from the latter that St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) claims its name. Midsummer is a time for celebrating the light, the vital force, and the spiritual flame; a time when the northern hemisphere begins another slow march to darkness. Historically, bonfires were lit to expel and keep away the malevolent spirits, who were allowed to roam freely on the darkening nights. In light of this ethos, we see Hypericum's medicine reflected.

St. John’s Wort is a solar herb. Physically, the flower buds fill with sanguine juice before bursting into a starry yellow bloom. The stamens even look like little rays or photons shooting out into space. Viewing it physiologically we notice that the herb has a particular affinity for the solar plexus—the liver to be exact. It vitalizes detoxification pathways making the body more efficient at expelling toxins. From a spiritual perspective, Hypericum (Latin for something like, “surmount spirit,” i.e. exorcise demon) expels not-self from the body. It stimulates the internal suns of all centers of consciousness to burn so brightly that there is no room for darkness.

There’s one more important reason that St. John’s Wort corresponds to St. John’s Day. Midsummer is the traditional time of Hypericum harvest. Around this time the buds are ripe with hypericin, a red phytochemical thought to be largely responsible for the herb’s antiviral and antibiotic properties. Optimal time for harvest is when the plant is mostly in the bud stage, before too many of the flowers have opened. Gather aerial parts and dry for tea, or fill a jar and cover with alcohol to make a tincture. In the Sierra foothills most of the stands that I have seen have passed to seed. Just as our sun has begun its slow nod back to the earth to plant the seeds for our next cycle and future generations.


Join us for August’s Herb of the Month gathering (Wednesday, August 5 at the HAALo Herb Shoppe, 6–8pm) when we’ll be discussing this and much more on Hypericum’s medicine and message. Herbalist Juju Urcis will also be presenting and sharing.

Jon OlesonJon Oleson works behind the herb counter at HAALo on Tuesdays. He facilitates a monthly herbal gathering where all are welcome to learn, discuss, and share knowledge about a particular herb.

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