Saint John’s Wort is one of the old world plant medicines healers of Europe and Asia carried to other continents, like North America and Australia. Although in many of those areas it’s spread rampantly and is often considered a weedy menace by farmers and ranchers, Saint John’s Wort is still valued medicine today.
Ayurvedic practitioners consider Saint John’s Wort bitter and pungent. It’s used to cool and balance Pitta while reducing Kapha and increasing Vata. That makes it valuable for treating heated, stuck conditions, like depression due to a lack of Vata movement. Folks who are down and having a hard time finding their inner fire or motivation, particularly if they’re overwhelmed by negative thought patterns that reinforce their depressed state or inspire strong feelings of anger or frustration are particularly suited to Saint John’s Wort.
From a Traditional Western Herbalist’s perspective, it’s Saint John’s Wort’s sweet, oily, balsamic and warm, dry taste that helps one regain a sense of safety and balance. When the depression or anxiety is exacerbated by dark or damp conditions, such as fear of the dark or Seasonal Affective Disorder-style winter blues, Saint John’s Wort helps rebuild and appropriately contain one’s fire. Here Saint John’s Wort is called on to shift moods in part through the digestive system, where it helps to strengthen and soothe an irritated and weak system as occurs in cases of chronic fatigue, recovery from a long and lingering illness, or general burn-out or exhaustion. It’s also a good choice for helping those who are more frail, including the elderly, recover gently from weakened conditions.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Saint John’s Wort is known as Guan Ye Lian Qiao or Herba Hypericum. It’s used to help clear heat toxins, as occurs when outside forces invade the system. Snake and insect bites are a good example as is infection. Practitioners may include it in formulas or use it as a single-herb to clear swelling and inflamed conditions to allow the qi to flow and the body to return to balance. Saint John’s Wort may be helpful in clearing wind-damp conditions, as well. These are known as bi zheng or painful obstructive syndrome conditions and can include pain in the extremities as is the case in arthritis, gout, and sciatica pain. It’s also used to help get Liver qi moving appropriately once again, assisting in easing depression related to Liver qi stagnation as well as improving digestion.
In my own practice, I tend to reach for Saint John’s Wort in tincture form when I’m struggling with liver heat accompanied by exhaustion, depression, or general malaise and fatigue…or when that pattern is beginning to form. If the pattern is in the early stages, where sleep is beginning to be disturbed by vivid dreams or followed by feelings of tiredness as if sleep was poor, a little Saint John’s Wort Salve or oil applied to the Solar Plexis (third chakra) and third eye (sixth chakra) can help set things right again. This application works on the subtle body, most specifically the astral body, to help tone the energy field–reigning in an over-expanded field. Folks, especially children, who experience vivid, fiery, war-like or frightening dreams are particularly likely to benefit from topical Saint John’s Wort applied this way just before bed as are those who are particularly creative or are in transitional points in their lives.
Once the pattern has established, though, topical Saint John’s Wort is often not enough. If sleep has become mostly problematic or clear depression has set in, I adjunct the topical Saint John’s Wort at night with a few drops of Saint John’s Wort tincture taken three times a day. When a depressed, exhausted pattern has established as a result of other factors, such as long-term illness or exhaustion brought on by lifestyle or by trauma, Saint John’s Wort can be a helpful part of a formula that addresses the foundational causes.
In my experience, complex situations often show up around Saint John’s Wort, the kind where what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily the whole of the story. In Flower Essence practice, Saint John’s Wort is used to help balance the light bodies, allowing one to circulate light through one’s body into the Earth, thus completing the cycle of reaching into the light and returning to the dark. The symptoms Saint John’s Wort in any form best treats are those that can be thought of as being either stuck in either an overly expanded or stretched-too-thin state or those that are stuck or blocked from letting what needs to move come back into the light. In other words, you see the symptoms that suggest Saint John’s Wort first, but if you look more closely you’ll likely see another challenge or symptom set that needs to also be addressed. If you address only the Saint John’s Wort symptoms, you may shift the overall pattern enough to heal the deeper issue, but then again you may not. It’s wise, therefore, to look deeper at the situation with a mind toward seeking appropriate partners for Saint John’s Wort’s work.
- The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine By Dr. David Frawley and Vasant Lad
- The Earthwise Herbal, Volume I: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood
- Chinese Medical Herbology & Pharmacology by John K. Chen and Tina T. Chen
- The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines by Matthew Wood
- Planetary Herbology: An Integration of Western Herbs into the Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedis Systems by Michael Tierra
- Flower Essence Repertory: A Comprehensive Guide to the Flower Essences researched by Dr. Edward Bach and the Flower Essence Society