St. John’s Wort


Hypericum Perforatu / Sint Janskruid. From: Jan Kops en Herman Christiaan van Hall. Flora Batava, deel 7. 1836.

Hypericum Perforatum

St. John’s Wort (Dutch: St. Janskruid) can be found all over Europe. It is named after Saint John the Baptist. His day of celebration is on the 24th of June, close to Midsummer’s day, when St. John’s Wort starts to flower with bright yellow petals. This color reminds us of the association of St. John’s Wort with summer, sun, health and happiness. Indeed, it is often used in folk magic and medicine for its uplifting and healing purposes.

According to Mrs. Grieve, the Greek word Hyperieum means ‘over an apparition’ and it is a reference to St. John’s Wort causing evil spirits to flee.

Dutch folklore recounts how the Devil tried to spoil this divine wort by pinching holes through its leaves. However he failed, and St John’s wort kept all its good properties. This is where the word Perforatum in the Latin name comes from: it refers to the tiny ‘holes’ in the leaves – these are actually small glands containing oil. Because of this story, St. John’s Wort is also known as ‘chase the Devil’ (Jaagtenduivel).


How to use St. John’s Wort

I’m usually not one for giving advice about herbal medicine, but I know of at least one person whose anxiety was lifted partly because of using Saint John’s Wort. Of course this does not automatically mean that this plant is a miracle worker, but I still think it’s worth to give it a try if you are burdened by fatigue, anxiety or (mild) depression. So here are some simple recipes: Use two teaspoons of dried leaves and flowers for one cup of tea; drunk during several weeks, this may help against nervousness and mild depression. The same goes for a tincture made from 10g of flowers soaked in 50 ml alchohol (70%) for 10 days. Put 10 drops of the tincture in one spoon of water and take during two months to feel its effect.  Make St. John’s Wort oil by placing the flower in olive oil. Leave this standing for six weeks, and shake at least once a day. When the oil colors red, seave it and put in a dark bottle. Taking one teaspoon everyday during 1-2 months strengthens the mind and spirit. The tincture and oil can also be used on the skin, but be careful with senstive skin and open wounds when using the alcoholic tincture!


Mrs. M. Grieve. A Modern Herbal.

K. ter Laan. Folklore en Volkswijsheden in Nederland en Vlaanderen.

Andrea Rausch en Brigitte Lotz. Handboek kruiden.