St John’s Wort

“St John’s Wort”

It is said that St.John’s Wort takes its name from the Knights of St.John of Jerusalem, who used it to treat wounds on Crusade battlefields. This herb was believed to dispel evil spirits, which is why the insane were often compelled to drink its infusions. 
Being yellow, the herb was associated with ‘choleric’ humours and it was therefore used to treat jaundice and hysteria.  We now know that St. John’s Wort can in fact lighten the mood and lift the spirits, being used extensively as an anti-depressant and in nervous exhaustion.

Botanical Name: Hypericum perforatum

Common name: St. John’s Wort

Family: Hypericeae

Parts Used: Aerial parts; flowering tops are used to make SJW oil

Harvest aerial parts in summer; flowers harvest in high summer

Active Constituents: 

  • Naphthodianthrones (0.05-0.6%), including hypericin and pseudohypericin
  • Hypericin and pseudohypericin (an extract devoid of hyperforin and hypericin still exhibited antidepressant activity > other constituents hyperoside, isoquercetin, miquelianin, 3-O-galactoside, 3-O-glucosiden and 3-O-glucurobide of quercetin)
  • Phloroglucinols – hyperforin and adhyperforin
  • Flavonoids – including hyperoside, isoquercitrin and quercetin
  • Phenolics including hyperforin induces CYP-450 3A4
  • Volatile oil
  • Essential fatty acids, zinc, minerals (Hall)

Qualities: Cool, dry, slightly bitter, sweet, astringent


The person who will benefit from St. John’s Wort will have a very reactive nervous system.  The smallest stimulus may produce a big reaction. Sharp, pain, fear. There is often inflammation.


Prickly heat; sensitive; speedy. Will quite happily listen to other people’s problems even though they have their own. 

Low pain threshold; St. John’s Wort is rich in minerals needed for endorphin production, and this LOWERS PAIN.

There may also be some evidence of infliction of the skin – e.g. herpes / shingles / measles / eczema. (Hall)

“For chilblains: boil the roots of tuts and pour upon curds. Pound with old lard and apply as a plaster…” – Remedy of the Physicians of Myddfai, Wales, 13th century


  • Nervous system tonic / trophorestorative
  • Thymoleptic / Antidepressant – thought to inhibit the reuptake ofneurotransmitters and the transport mechanisms in the synaptic cleft – i.e. serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine, GABA and L-glutamate
  • Anxiolytic
  • Antiviral (enveloped) e.g. hypericin
  • Sedative
  • Spasmolytic
  • Vulnerary
  • Antiseptic / antibacterial in vitro
  • Antineoplastic
  • Astringent
  • Increases phase one detoxification in liver (induces cytochrome P-450 3A4)

Research has shown that it inhibits the reuptake of several synaptosomal neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine with efficiencies similar to that of selective inhibitors, and modulates neuronal excitability via glutamatergic and GABAergic mechanisms


  • Mild to moderate depression (as effective as tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs in the treatment of mild to moderate depression)
  • Post natal depression
  • PMS-D
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Menopausal neuroses
  • Neuralgia
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Sciatica
  • Wounds – specific for wounds to parts rich in nerves, with sharp, shooting pains, inflammation along the nerve, pinched nerves; injuries from sharp penetrating instruments
  • Acute and chronic infection from enveloped viruses i.e. cold sores, genital herpes, chickenpox, shingles
  • HIV, Hepatitis B and C
  • Influenza
  • Externally for wound healing, burns, atopic dermatitis, myalgia
  • Sleep disorders, insomnia
  • Specific: Menopausal neurosis (BHP) Depression – mild to moderate.  A profound herbal medicine for those people who have lost hope, lost their sense of direction, or who lack belief in being able to feel happiness.
  • DOCTRINE OF SIGNATURES: The leaves of St. John’s wort contain tiny perforations that when held up to the light allow the light to shine through the holes in each leaf.  The symbolises how this herbal medicine ‘lets the light in’ to a person’s life.

Specific for pinched nerves and pain cause by sudden movement, such as saving yourself from a close slip or stumble.


  • Anticoagulants – (Warfarin)
  • Cardiac glycosides – (Digoxin)
  • Immune suppressants – (Cyclosporine)
  • Anti-HIV drugs and related Mdx – (Indinavir)
  • Chemotherapeutic drugs – (Irinotecan)
  • Anticonvulsants


High doses cause photosensitivity (advise patient to stay out of sun or UVA radiation)

****If a significant response in depressive illness is not noted in 4-6 weeks discontinue****

Not suited for severe depression with psychotic episodes or for those with suicidal tendencies
Several cases of mania reported (Bone – inconclusive)


Liquid Extract
3-6ml 1:2 LE / day

20-40ml 1:2 LE / week Dried Herb Equivalent

6-12g / day dried aerial parts (infusion)


  • Saw Palmetto for sexual debility
  • Oats (Avena sativa) for depression
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) and Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis) for anxiety states


  • INFUSION: Use for anxiety, nervous tension, irritability or emotional upsets – especially if associated with PMS or Menopause
  • TINCTURE: Take for at least 2 months for long-standing nervous tension leading to exhaustion.  For childhood bedwetting, give 5-10 drops at night
  • WASH: Use infusion to bathe wounds, skin sores and bruises
  • FLOWER INFUSED OIL: Use on burns and muscle or joint inflammations – including tennis elbow, sciatica or neuralgia. Add lavender for burns and Yarrow oil for joint inflammations
  • FLOWER CREAM:  Use for localized nerve pains. Helps reduce breast engorgement during lactation.


SJW – ABC Clinical Overview

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