I first met St. Johns wort in 1997, when I fired my psychiatrist. St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), is a plant that grows in the wild and has been used for centuries for mental health conditions. It’s widely prescribed for depression in Europe.
I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression in 1989, after 3 pregnancy losses. Eight years later, I had already had 3 rounds of electric shock therapy, but it only made me feel worse. My young daughter was just 3 years old, and my body had started breaking down from the chemical storm the doctors wanted me to take for my “disorder”. At just 92 pounds there was nothing the doctors had to offer me, but more shock therapy. My body had quit digesting food. My gut was so inflamed from the prescription drugs, they thought I had celiac disease. The drugs never worked. That was my “rock bottom”.
Treating the winter blues
When to harvest St. Johns Wort
The flowers open in mid-June through mid-July, depending on your elevation and the degree of heat you experience at that time of year. Here in the BC mountains, we can harvest St. Johns wort flowers from mid-July to the end of the month, and never earlier than July 10th. The five-petaled flowers are numerous, growing on the top of the stalk.
I pick them by using my fingers like a fork, running them up the stalk, through the clusters of flowers. This causes the flowers to fall into my upturned palm. Picking the flowers will stain your fingers a deep purple. But the color washes off with soap.
St. Johns Wort, like Bidens, needs to be tinctured fresh because the active ingredient dissipates quickly once the plant is picked. While still useful, the dried plant has less active ingredient left than the fresh blossoms.
- Make St. Johns Wort tincture using fresh flowers and a mild tasting alcohol like vodka or brandy.
- 4 cups of fresh St. Johns wort flowers
- 3 cups of Brandy or Vodka (80 proof)
- Place the St. Johns Wort flowers in a 1 quart mason jar.
- Cover with alcohol. Use a knife to dislodge any air bubbles in the alcohol and ensure that the flowers are completely immersed in the alcohol. Top up with more alcohol if necessary to cover the flowers.
- Cap tightly and shake. Place in a sunny window and let the light of the sun draw the antioxidants out of the flowers and into the alcohol. This will make a more potent medicine.
- Shake daily or as often as you think of it.
- After 30 days, strain the flowers from the alcohol, retaining the tincture. The tincture will be ruby red.
- Store in colored glass bottles in a cool, dark place. Now that it is complete, it should be protected from light to maintain its potency.
- Label and date. This has a long shelf life of many years.
How to make St. Johns wort flower tincture
To make your own St. Johns Wort tincture, gather 6 cups of St. Johns Wort blossoms when the blossoms are open but before they fade. It’s best to pick them in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun touches the plants.
Only the St. Johns wort flowers and flower buds are used to make St. Johns wort flower tincture. The flowers should be used fresh, if possible, for the most potent herbal remedy. Wilt them for 4 hours, then put them in a mason jar and pour 40% alcohol over them for a tincture.
- Place the St. Johns Wort blossoms in a mason jar and press down to get as many blossoms in the jar as you can, leaving 2-inch headspace.
- Fill the jar with vodka.
- Use a knife to press out any air bubbles and top off the jar to within 1 inch of the rim. (You’ll need about 750 ml/24 fl. ounces of vodka to fill a 1 litre/1 quart jar)
- Cap the jar tightly. Place it in a warm place, which encourages the plants to release their goodness. A sunny kitchen window is perfect.
- Shake the jar of St. Johns Wort tincture whenever you think of it.
Allow this mixture to macerate in the jar in your warm, sunny window for 30 to 45 days. Shake as often as you think of it. (This is one time when the admonition to place in a cool, dry place, should be ignored. You’ll find that more medicinal benefit is extracted when St. Johns wort tincture is infused in sunlight).
The vodka will turn ruby red within a few minutes of contact with the flowers. This is the hypericum (there are actually several hypericums in St. Johns Wort) and is considered the active ingredient in St Johns Wort Flower Tincture, although herbalists believe that the whole plant acts in synergy to create the beneficial healing effects.
After 30 to 45 days, strain out the blossoms and reserve the liquid. Squeeze the flowers as much as possible to retain as much of the liquid as you can. Re-bottle the tincture into sanitized bottles. Label and date. Store in a cool, dark place, it will keep for many years.
Dosage for St John’s Work Flower Tincture:
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to 3 times a day for pain relief.
- 1 teaspoon at bedtime for relief of S.A.D. Note if this makes you drowsy and adjust up or down the dosage accordingly.
Other Uses for St John’s Wort
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