June is a very busy time here at our herb farm. There are so many things that need to be harvested and dried. This week I’ve been up with the sun collecting red clover (Trifolium pratense) and then I move on to two hours of picking roses. Almost nothing is planted in rows which means that as I harvest I am exploring every flower bed and unused part of the lawn on our acreage.
The past two mornings as I pass the medicine wheel in the front yard I’ve been eyeing the St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). It is usually ready to pick by the end of June but I’ll bet it’s early this year. I’m already seeing a bit of yellow developing in the flower buds that were completely green only a week ago.
I wrote about St. John’s wort in my new book, Heal Local, 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare, not because I think everyone should grow and use the plant but because it is a good example of our simplistic view of botanical health.
I will be that most of you reading this have heard of St. John’s wort as being helpful with depression. You may also have some sort of inkling that there is an air of controversy about its use. When we talk about the therapeutic benefits of plants we tend to define each one by its most popular use. St. John’s wort is for depression, lavender is for sleep, comfrey is for wounds, chamomile is for relaxation and so on. The truth is much more complicated. Within each plant there are hundreds of chemical compounds. These compounds are so diverse that it is very rare that a plant’s uses are so simplified as to cover just one application.
In a strange bit of irony, we tend to simplify the plant because it is easier to remember everything we may use for our health. This creates in most a feeling that they must learn and use hundreds and hundreds of herbs… which in my opinion is anything but simple. Instead, I propose what I call a “small apothecary” approach. If we spend the time to know a small number of plants in depth rather than hundreds of plants superficially there is, in the end, less to memorize and keep in order.
St. John’s wort is my favorite herb for burns. Since I’ve been out picking roses in the heat of the day I’ve turned a bit red. I come into the house and spread on some St. John’s wort oil and no more burn. I’ve used it for burns in the kitchen as well. The plant is anti-inflammatory and can also be used internally as a pain reliever. It is a powerhouse in our nervous system and not just for depression. I like to use the oil for any kind of blunt force trauma where nerves have been injured.
If you’d like to make your own St. John’s wort oil this year and you don’t have it growing already, look for it in a sunny, open, wild space in your area. It is easily wildcrafted.
leaves and stem below.
This oil likes to be made in the hot sun. Place it somewhere that it will soak up the sun’s rays for 4-6 weeks, shaking it often.