One of my very favorite and most commonly used herbs is St John’s Wort. Besides the many wonderful benefits it possesses, one of the reasons I find it so valuable is its accessibility and ease of use. I’ve written about the ways I like to use it, as well as one of my favorite methods of making medicine from it, many times.
St John’s Wort has a long and rich history of use in herbal traditions. It has been used successfully throughout the ages for conditions ranging from painful wounds, to depression to consumption.
Today, it is most famous for its use and effectiveness on depression. While it does have a powerful effect on depression, it is a potent medicine for many other conditions as well.
Depression and SAD
Long touted for it’s anti-depressant activity, ST John’s Wort now has several studies backing the imperical evidence that has shown its efficacy in this area. Herbalist Susun Weed calls St John’s Wort (or St Joan’s Wort) “bottled sunshine”. Especially effective for Seasonal Affective Disorder, St John’s Wort has also been studied and shown effective for other types of depression, including major depressive disorder, for which it has been found to be just as effective as SSRIs, but safer. It is suspected that one of the reasons St John’s Wort is so beneficial for depression is that it seems to have the ability to reduce cortisol and corticosterone levels in the brain.
Hypericum (the botanical name for St John’s Wort) is often found in topical lotions and creams designed for use on injuries involving deep muscular trauma and damage to nerve-rich areas like fingers, toes, spine, teeth, mouth and ears. In a recent study on ear pain in children, an herbal combination including St John’s Wort performed better than antibiotics. Additionally, according to Daniel Moerman, several Native American tribes used St John’s Wort for pain, especially toothaches.
Although there are not as many references to the use of St John’s Wort for tumors or cancerous conditions in the historical literature, there have been a great number of recent scientific studies showing very positive results. Even in hard-to-treat cancers such as pancreatic cancer, St Johns Wort has proven to be useful. Other studies on glioblastoma cell lines, nasopharyngeal cancer, breast cancer cell lines, leukemic cells, and colorectal cancer have all shown positive results.
St John’s Wort has been known traditionally as a potent anti-viral herb. Herbalists such as Susun Weed use it as a first choice treatment for viral conditions such as shingles, cold sores and other herpes viruses. The scientific literature bears this out as well. This study shows its effectiveness against cytomegalovirus. Many other studies are also showing that St John’s Wort is beneficial for HIV treatment and prevention.
Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory
The analgesic, or pain relieving actions of St John’s Wort are well-known to herbalists throughout the world. According to David Hoffman, Hypericum’s analgesic effect makes it ideal for use in treating neuralgia, anxiety, tension, fibrositis, sciatica and rheumatic pain. This study shows that it is twice as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain. It’s anti-inflammatory nature also allows it to excel in topical problems such as bruises, varicose veins and mild burns. This study shows that some of the reasons St John’s Wort is so beneficial in these sorts of cases is that it improves tissue regeneration by enhancing fibroblast proliferation, collagen bundle synthesis, and revascularization.
You can see why St John’s Wort is one of my favorite plant remedies. Do you use St John’s Wort? For which conditions do you find it works best?