After waiting for the dew to dry, I walk over to Harmony Center where one of my two Hypericum perforatum plants continues to flower. My friends and I refer to this plant as St. J’s, staying out of the herbal controversy over whether it should be known by its more common name, St. John’s Wort, or the feminist alternative St. Joan’s Wort.
St. J’s has a reputation for helping to alleviate depression. While looking at its bright, cheerful yellow flowers, would lift anyone’s spirits, St. J’s offers many other healing gifts to us humans. In addition to having anti-viral properties, this beautiful plant is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and anti-bacterial. I’ve given infused St. J’s oil to people with shingles to apply externally for alleviating the neuralgia and use it myself when my hip or muscles yell in pain.
I was initially taught to gather the top flowering parts of St. J’s, including some leaves. Like other herbs, I harvested no more than 1/3 of the top. As St. J’s isn’t plentiful on my land, after harvesting the one or two plants growing here, I drove around scanning the landscape, searching for more.
My relationship with St. J’s changed after I became friends with salve maker Gretchen Gould. Her oil won an herbal competition for having the deepest, richest, reddest color, thereby being the most medicinal. She shared her secret with me. She only harvests the newly opened flowers.
I now follow her example. In doing so, I’ve experienced another St. J’s gift.
St. J’s begins blooming around the Summer Solstice (June 20th this year). More than two months later, she continues to offer newly opened blossoms each morning. Perennials, like St. J’s, usually don’t behave this way. In contrast to annuals, they have a short flowering season.
Over these months, I’ve filled jar after jar with St. J’s flowers. First I made the oil by adding olive oil to the jars and placing them in a sunny spot. I watched the bright yellow flowers magically transform the yellowish oil into a brilliant red color. As the plants kept producing, I made tincture by adding 100 proof vodka to a jar of flowers. The initially clear vodka similarly transformed into a crimson red color. Then I dried some flowers to use in teas.
As I walk over to St. J’s this morning, my heart feels full of gratitude. Arriving beside her, I pick her offerings of the day and place them in my basket saying, “Dear, dear St. J’s, thank you for all you have given me this summer. You kept giving, and giving, and giving. It’s time for you to rest and renew. Though I’ll keep visiting, I’m going to stop picking.”
I stand back, wondering what I can give back to St. J’s. Looking at her, I focus on my full heart, open wide, and send her my love. Then I find the hose, and sprinkle her roots with water.
No wonder St. J’s helps alleviate depression. She fills our hearts with love.
This is wonderful, Lesley! You were one of the herbalists who introduced me to St. J, and she has been a major ally of mine ever since. Last winter when I was laid up with a back injury I was using her in every form: oil, tincture, homeopathic and flower essence. Last summer she was a strong presence in my garden; this year not a yellow blossom in sight — so I love having her show up in my inbox. Thank you for the tip about newly-opened flowers only.
As quite a few herbalists noted a similar dirth of St. J’s this summer, I’m grateful that she not only returned but was also so generous. I believe plants like St. J’s respond to feeling appreciated and useful. Digitalis, another heart-oriented plant, keeps multiplying behind Harmony Center. I feel this might be connected to how much I love having her here.
So beautiful Lesley, and a great reminder to have gratitude for all that nature brings!