St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St. John’s wort is a flowering plant and medicinal herb that is commonly sold over-the-counter as a treatment for depression.


St. John’s wort is generally not used for culinary purposes however in the past disturbed people were given St. John’s wort tea as the herb’s odour was supposed to be so repugnant to evil spirits that one smell would cause them to vanish. When rubbed together, the flowers and leaves have a turpentine-balsam aroma.


St. John’s wort prefers well-drained soils and thrives in temperate climates. It grows to 60cm in height and when you hold its leaves and flowers up to the light you can see bright translucent dots, making them look perforated.


For centuries, St. John’s wort was thought to have the power to drive out devils and evil spirits. Branches were gathered and hug over doorways, tucked under pillows or strung around the neck.


St. John’s wort extract has been shown to support the nervous system against a range of depressive disorders including bipolar by increasing serotonin.

It is also used for urinary problems, gastric problems, anaemia and congested lungs. It is also used to purify the blood, for its antiseptic qualities and to assist in the maintenance of general well-being. Oil infused with St. John’s wort is often used to assist in the healing of cuts, sprains, burns, inflammation, cramps, ulcers and bruises.

Facts About St. John’s Wort

When the petals of the yellow St. John’s wort flowers are rubbed together, a resin is released, leaving a red stain. Legend says that this is because the plant sprang up from the blood of John the Baptist when he was beheaded.

Common Questions

Can I take St. John’s wort in combination with other medication?

For people wishing to use St. John’s wort, it is important that you consult your doctor before doing so. St. John’s wort has been known to cause reactions when taken alongside asthma inhalants, decongestants, anti-depressant drugs and diet pills.

Can St. John’s wort improve the quality of bread?

No. This thought came from a time when St. John’s wort was a pest in wheat fields, contaminating flour crops. Bakers reported that ‘St. John’s wort fortified’ flour improved the bread. However this may be because St. John’s wort is high in amino acids which could have a beneficial effect on the ingredients and rising action of the bread.