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Cheerful St. John’s Wort

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

One of the more popular herbs used to treat mild depression is St. John’s wort. Extract from this perennial has been demonstrated to be effective with few side effects. I think it is just as effective growing in the garden. The bright yellow flowers seem to cheer me up whenever I gaze at them.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is best grown as a ground cover. It has erect reddish stems growing 1-3 feet in ideal conditions. Each stem produces many bright yellow five-petalled flowers in loose clusters. The plant produces deep roots (up to five feet in ideal conditions) and many lateral roots from its rhizomes. It can quickly cover a large area.

St. John’s wort is native to woods and hedgerows in Europe. Because of its medicinal virtues it was brought to the New World by settlers where it escaped into the wild. St. John’s wort is now considered a nuisance plant in the northern region of the U.S. and is a danger to livestock which develop sensitivity to sunlight if they eat it.

St. John’s wort prefers sunny, well-drained soil that is on the dry side. With its vigorous root system, this herb would be good to grow on slopes or anywhere erosion control is an issue. Be careful where you plant it, however, as it can be invasive. Put it where you can prevent it reaching unwanted areas. Besides its ability to treat mild depression, St. John’s wort, folk medicine has used it as a wound healing plant. Leaves and stems of the flowering plant were harvested, chopped, packed into jars with vegetable oil, and allowed to steep for months. When the oil turned red it was ready to be used as a dressing for burns, sprains, wounds, and possible nerve damage. A tea made from the dried leaves and flowers may be helpful in combatting mild depression, nervous tension, and menopausal symptoms.