It's no coincidence that the heroine of my first book was an herbalist. I been fascinated for more than a decade by the use of plants in healing. I had the pleasure recently of working with one of my favorites: the lovely St. John's Wort.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
This plant grows in sunny fields and can spread vigorously from short runners and as many as 30,000 seeds per plant in a single season. Unfortunately I haven't had any problems with this particular plant trying to take over. It's a hardy short-lived perennial that can be easily identified by holding the leaves up to light. They will appear to be marked with tiny pinhole dots.
Harvesting should be done on a sunny day at mid-day. This herb is often ready to be picked around the summer solstice. Pick the flowering tops of the plant, flowers, buds, and leaves. It should be made into whatever formula it's supposed to be used for right away. Fresh plant is supposed to be much better than dried.
St. John's Wort's most well-know use is for treating depression. But it is also commonly used for muscle aches, nerve damage, nerve pain, as a tonic for nervous system health, as an antiviral, and even as a sunscreen.
CAUTION: Due to it's drug metabolizing enzymes it can cause increased metabolism of certain drugs lowering their effectiveness. This herb should be taken with extreme caution if you are taking any necessary lifesaving medication. St John's Wort is well known for having quite a few drug interactions and should not be taken with antidepressants, birth control pills (makes them ineffective), cyclesporine, digoxin, indinavin and other drugs used to control HIV, irinotecan and other drugs to control cancer, warfarin and other anticoagulants, but this is by no means the whole list. Check with your healthcare provider for any known drug interactions before you begin taking this herb. Overdose can lead to anemia and liver damage. In large quantities St. John's Wort can be a nerve toxin. Always start any herbal medication with small doses and work your way up to an effective dose. Livestock should also not be allowed to graze freely on fields of St. John's wort as the amount ingested can very quickly become toxic.
After taking all due cautions into account, if you still want to use this very effective herb, the tincture is the easiest method I know for making medicine out of St. John's Wort. My second favorite method is to make an infused oil, but that's a different experience and medicine for a different day.
Making the tincture is simple: First chop the flowers and upper six to eight inches of plant material:
Next put this plant material in a jar. It should be packed loosely. Not so tight that you can't push your finger down through it, but not too fluffy and loose.
Mark where it comes to on the jar and fill to just a bit (maybe a half inch) above that line. Sorry for how imprecise my methods are. I not very formal when I do these things.
Finally label the jar with the contents because wilted plant material all starts to look similar over time. Leave the plant material in the alcohol for four to six weeks to extract, shaking daily for the first couple of weeks. It should turn a deep red. Then strain out the plant material and keep in a tightly lidded container. Tinctures have a very long shelf life, and can be used with little worry for a year or more.
I have an ongoing interest in dystopian fiction, both reading and writing it. I’m a fan of simple living and draw inspiration for my writing from my love of old-fashioned skills and my small hobby farm.
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My first book is available on Amazon