Now is the time to be on the lookout for this yellow-flowered herb. It is very distinct and easy to identify. The plant grows 1'-3' tall in dry, sunny fields, roadsides and disturbed soils. Any Michigander will probably be able to find this on a bike ride! Each little yellow flower has a ton of long thin stamens popping out of the center; it reminds me of fireworks! If you look closer, there are small black dots on each petal edge and also on the leaves and stems. These are oil glands, where all the medicine is at. St. John's Wort is hard to find before June 24th (St. John's Day!) when it typically begins to blossom. About a week after flowering, rub a blossom on your palm. If it leaves red-purple streaks, the plant is ready to gather. The whole top quarter of the plant can be used. It blooms from mid-summer to fall.
St. John's Wort is a non-native plant introduced from Europe. Historically, it has been used in folk medicine to treat eye problems and respiratory illnesses. Dried leaves were also a talisman against witches and thunder. Now we have scientific proof that St. John's Wort is good for more than guarding against witches.
St. John's Wort as a direct effect on the nervous system. It is said to help treat anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression fibromyalgia, nerve pain, smoking addiction, stress, and possibly even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The herb also has an anti-viral effect, making it useful for viruses, colds & flu, cold sores, genital warts, herpes, and shingles. Lastly, it is used for skin problems: blisters, burns, hemorrhoids, and sunburn.
St. John's Wort is commonly infused in oil to be used topically, or made into a tincture. The herb loses potency when dried, but can still be used as a tea for certain ailments. It may take a few weeks in order for the herb to have any effect.
As I've mentioned before, herbs can be very effective, so use with caution. Some people become sensitive to sunlight after drinking the tea for extended periods of time. St. John's Wort may increase the effects of narcotics and some antidepressants. Talk with a professional before using if you are pregnant or nursing.