St. John's Wort use in Alternative Medicine
St. John's Wort herb uses for depression and anxiety in Herbal Medicine, St. John's Wort growing information, how to make hypericin tincture and more
St. John's Wort FAQ's
Grow St. John's Wort in the home herb garden, Harvesting and use in Herbal Medicine
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
There are more than three hundred species of Hypericum or St. John's Wort; for alternative medicine purposes, look for black dots on the flower petals, also clear dots are visible when leaves are held up to light. St. John's Wort grows as a wild herb all over the United States, mostly in waste places, hayfields, and on roadsides. It begins blooming around the summer solstice, and continues throughout summer. To check your St. John's Wort for the active ingredient, hypericin, use the following recipe to make a tincture. Your St. John's Wort tincture should be bright to dark red. My hypericin tincture was dark maroon and was very effective for me, your experience may differ.
You will need: 8 oz. 100 proof Vodka
Pint Jar with lid.
2-3 oz. Dried St. John's Wort Tops or Whole Herb fresh or dried (enough to fill jar)
Stuff jar with dried St. John's Wort, cover with vodka. When using fresh wild herbs as opposed to dried, it is probably best to use a higher proof alcohol. Put the lid on tight and give it a good shaking. Shake tincture mix every day for two weeks. Strain liquid from the St. John's Wort mixture. Use leftover herb in compost pile for your herb garden.
Using an herb tincture press is a very effective method to get the most St. John's Wort tincture out of your herbs, and with the price of alcohol, pays for itself in only a few herb tincture batches! For a variety of presses, see http://www.mathrespresses.com/
Store St. John's Wort tincture in bottles and use same dropperful doses as you would tincture from the Health Food Store. This method works for a variety of wild herbs, and is the best way to preserve the medicinal potency of the herbs. You can get dropper bottles for tincture from your local pharmacist.
Recommended dosage of St. John's Wort tincture is two droppers full 3 times a day. When to take it depends on the person, some may find it better to take St. John's Wort with meals to avoid upset stomach.
To test the strength of hypericin in a capsule against my home made herbal tincture, I put 1 tbs. vodka in one small glass bottle, to another I put in 1 tbs. of my herb tincture. I opened two store bought capsules of St. John's Wort and poured them into the plain vodka, covered it and shook it for a few seconds. The first thing I noticed was the capsules contained a lot of residue of some kind, as that mixture was a cloudy, brownish red compared to the ruby red of my home made herbal remedy
I remain convinced that the wildcrafted herb tincture product is superior, also I like knowing that I chose these wild herbs myself as ones I would take for myself as well as give to friends and family.
Growing St. John's Wort Commercially
As far as growing St. John's Wort on a commercial basis as an herb crop, I'm not sure it is a good idea, although an acre or two might be ok. Here are my reasons:
1. First and foremost, I hope to teach people to appreciate the uses of wild herb plants. There is hardly ten square feet of land anywhere that doesn't come by nature to support some kind of wild medicinal plants. We have only begun to scratch the surface of plant uses. Let's not destroy what nature has given us before we know what it is by overplanting of invasive exotic plant species. The world is not going to run out of St. John's Wort, it is too prolific; unless we continue to destroy its wild environment. This wild herb will never be endangered by picking.
2. St. John's Wort herb grows abundantly in the wild almost everywhere. It can get out of hand easily, invading your neighbors pastureland, possibly causing damage to cows and sheep.
4. How are you going to harvest flower tops? For a good quality hypericin content, only the top third of the plant is used. Somehow, harvesting ten tons of St. John's Wort by hand doesn't appeal much to me. Keep your herb crop small and manageable.
5. Too many other people are considering it. According to a wholesaler in Tennessee, wildcrafted St. John's Wort is bought at $2.00 a pound (1997), and you have to get contracts with herb wholesalers to buy your crop. If it becomes a common crop, the price will plunge and the herb crop may not be worth harvesting, then it will contribute to the noxious weed problem and interfere with future herb production from your land and even make it unfavorable for livestock grazing.
6. Growing herbs any way besides organic will severely hurt your chances of having a product that will sell. People who buy herbs are looking for NATURAL PRODUCTS!
7. It probably won't bloom the first year. It is a perennial. I have seen nothing in the wild that leads me to believe it will yield a worthwhile crop in the first year. "To be economical, agriculture has to be ecological"
Q: Can I grow St. John's Wort from seed?
A: Some sources say hypericum may be hard to germinate, but a local grower told me it was easy. It is also easy to find St. John's Wort in the wild and get cuttings. My experience has been that cuttings are the easiest way to go. Seeds take a long time to germinate, up to three months and will continue to sprout indefinitely. First year growth is very slow.
Q: Is it easy to grow?
A: St. John's Wort germination is increased when the seeds are soaked in water overnight, then mixed with sand and put in the freezer for 10 days. Then you could start them indoors early, or plant the seeds by scattering on loose ground. You may wish to add sand to the seeds for easier spreading. St. John's Wort seeds are tiny . It is a weedy perennial, once you get it started, you'll always have it, as long as you leave some to reseed each year. I waited until a good bit of seed had fallen to the ground before collecting, so that there will be more next year.
Q: How do I harvest St. John's Wort?
A: Cut the top one third part of the herb off in July. (It will probably rebloom, you can harvest those blooms, too, best to allow some to go to seed.) Use fresh in herb tincture, or lay flat on a sheet or hang bundles to dry for tea. You will need two ounces of St. John's Wort herb a day for tea, so an herbal tincture is more practical. You can also powder it and get an inexpensive herb capsule making machine; however my personal experience leads me to believe tincture is more effective.