ST JOHN 'S WORT Hypericum perforatum
St. John's Wort is one of the most important herbs in herbal medicine and herbal magic. Its flowering time coincides with the zenith of the midsummer sun and for this reason, as well as for its obviously sunny disposition it has long held a place of honour as a summer solstice herb. The radiant flowers resemble little suns, while the reddish oil resembles blood, the sacred juice of life, which in the olden days was sacrificed at summer solstice to ensure the continuity of life throughout the coming season, when the sun slowly goes into retreat. Some sprigs were cast on the ceremonial bonfires, others were blessed and hung above the stable and barn doors. It was thought that St. Johns Wort offers protection against the hazards of excessive sun, fire, lightening and droughts, and to scare off witches and demons. The Church did not manage to demonise this sacred herb and so opted to assimilate it instead. They dedicated it to St. John, whose Saints day is just after the summer solstice and is often celebrated in a similar, though perhaps tamer fashion. It became an anti-demonic herb that could ward off all evil witchcraft and daemons. St. John's Wort was also used in witch-trials to force the accused to 'speak the truth'. It was thought that in the presence of such an upright, open and radiant herb no evil could persist.
St. John's Wort is a tonic for the whole body. It is a gentle cleansing remedy that improves overall function and tones the vital body systems. It strengthens and regulates the metabolism and gently stimulates stomach, liver and kidneys thus helping to clear the body of metabolic waste matter. It is also an excellent nervine with a calming and sedative effect on the nervous system. It is an old remedy for headaches and migraine and can also be used to treat anxiety, melancholy and irritability, especially during menopause or in cases of PMT. It is said to be effective for bedwetting in children, especially when due to a nervous disposition or anxiety. For this purpose, 1 tablespoon of the infusion given at bedtime is said to suffice, though one may also massage a little St. John's Wort oil into the lower back. The tea is effective for indigestion, stomach catarrh and as a vermifuge. Externally a compress can be applied to wounds, cuts, bruises, varicose veins and burns.
The Doctrine of Signatures identified St. John's Wort as an herb of the sun. Its sunny, upright character was thought to dispel daemons of depression and melancholy, while its punctured leaves and red oil signified its usefulness for treating wounds, cuts and burns. It is also used as a talisman to identify witches. As an amulet it was also thought to protect against wounds inflicted by sharp objects such as swords, knives and bullets, while hung above barn and stable doors at midsummer protects the cattle against the evil-doings of witches and demons.