The St. John’s wort plant is one of the many herbs known to the ancient world, a fame that has not decreased with time. Dioscorides during the first century A.D. praised this fantastic healing herb. Its Latin name comes from the Greek word hyper (upon) and eikon (image) since this plant is above anything else.
The St. John’s wort plant leaves are covered with small secreting bags, visible against the light, which look like small holes. Thus, the name perforatum. In the Renaissance, people supporting the theory of signs saw in its “perforated but cicatrized” leaves a sign that the plant should have wound healing properties. In the 18th century, this plant was known as the “military plant” because soldiers valued it.
St. John’s wort is highly valued due to its wound healing properties, and it has been used for thousands of years to treat burns. Moreover, we know that because of its stimulating and sedative properties, it is helpful for depression and other nervous disorders if taken in an infusion.
St. John’s Wort Plant Scientific Facts
- French: Herbe de Saint Jean
- Spanish: Hiperico, hierba de San Juan
- Environment: Spread worldwide, it is common in America and Europe. It grows in bushes, forests, untamed lands, and roadsides.
- Description: Vivacious plant on the Gutiferae family, growing from 30 to 60cm high, with an upright stem, and leaves perforated by many holes, as if they were in rags. The flowers are yellow, with five petals each.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The flower clusters (leaves and flowers) and their oil.
Healing Properties and Warning
The leaves and flowers of the St. John’s wort plant contain essential oils, tannin, flavonoids, and a red coloring substance known as hypericin. St. John’s wort has the following properties:
- Wound healing, thanks to its tannin content and essence. When applied locally as oil, it presents exciting actions which make it a perfect remedy for bruises and wounds.
– It moderates the inflammatory reaction in the tissues surrounding the wound or bruise.
– It has local anesthetic properties, thus easing pain in a gentle but persistent manner.
– It has antiseptic properties.
– It stimulates epithelization, that is, the regeneration of skin on the legion.
Hence, St. John’s wort has been used for more than 2000 years to heal any wounds, sores, and mainly burns.
It is more effective for 1st and 2nd-degree burns than most creams prepared from chemically synthesized products; for significant burns or deep ones, we always recommend that a doctor prescribe a treatment.
When used internally, St. John’s wort has the following benefits:
- Balsamic and antispasmodic: It is recommended for asthma, bronchial catarrh, and bronchitis.
- Digestive, cholagogue, and choleretic, which helps digestion, decrease stomach acidity and promote gall bladder functions.
- Nervous system stabilizer and invigorator: Hypericin has a balancing effect on the nervous system, and it has been proven to help those people suffering from depression or neurosis. It is used for children’s enuresis.
WARNING!: Avoid direct sunlight on the skin while taking or applying St. John’s wort. Hypericin produces photosensitization which produced reddening of the skin after sunbathing.
Preparation and Use
- Infusion with 30-40g of dry plant per liter of water. Drink a cup after every meal.
- St. John’s wort plant oil: Several pharmaceutical preparations currently contain this oil. It is applied using cotton on the burn or wounded skin, then covering with a gauze or a dressing.
People wanting to follow the traditional customs can prepare their own St. John’s wort plant oil in the following way, which is what the Spanish botanist Font Quer recommended:
Put 100g of flower clusters (the tip of the stems) recently gathered but already dry into a glass jar, and add 250g of good olive oil. Steep in cold extract for 20 or 30 days, moving the bottle every day. After this time, strain the oil and bottle it in small containers, which must be kept in a cool, shady place, well sealed. Every time one of these bottles is open, throw away the unused oil because it will lose its properties.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 714,715. Print.