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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

St. John’s Wort – Gather Now for Winter Use

Having spent the last week bowfishing, trolling slowly along the creek edges I had the opportunity to find many stands of the gorgeous sunny yellow St. Johns Wort that is blooming throughout Southern Illinois right now. Harvesting the flowers from the boat kept me from having to slog through the tick and poison ivy infested creek bottoms.

shrubby st. john's wort blossom

Traditionally, herbalists and foragers would gather St. John’s Wort  around the Summer Solstice, especially on St. John’s day, when the days are longest and the sun is at its peak; presumably to capture the summer sun and essence for the winter months ahead. Here however, the peak bloom time tends to be early July. 

Trolling the shoreline also made berry picking easier - lots of dewberries mixed in with the St. John's Wort.

Multiple Medicinal Properties

The most commonly known medicinal property of St. John’s is its use for depression, especially seasonal depression in the depths of winter.  One of St. John’s Wort’s key properties is photo sensitizing; meaning it literally allows us to absorb more light.  This could be why so many people find that it helps to alleviate seasonal affective disorder or winter blues. Regular use of St. John’s Wort has also been proven to naturally boost serotonin levels, assisting to generate overall feelings of happiness and well-being that help to alleviate depression.

St. John’s Wort also has use as external medicine, as a time honored remedies for soothing and healing skin, including burns, wounds, sprains, and bruises.  St. John’s Wort will help to relieve pain and discomfort as well as speed the healing process for skin injuries and irritations.

Harvesting St. John’s Wort

The flowers are at their peak for harvesting just as the buds begin to open. This makes for an occasionally short harvest period. One method for deciding if the buds are at an optimal period for harvest is to pinch the flower between your fingers; the buds and flowers are ready for harvest if a small bit of purple “sap” squirts out.

Make a Tincture for Winter

If you know you are subject to mild seasonal depression, or just want the added boost to avoid those winter blahs, summer is the time to make your St. John’s Wort tincture so that you have plenty on hand for the dreary winter days that seem so far away. 

Needed Supplies:

  • Quart size canning jar with lid and ring
  • A good quality 80-Proof Vodka
  • Fresh St. John’s Wort Flowers

Tincture Making Process

1 – For best results, allow the fresh flowers to wilt somewhat before preparing the tincture. Usually this is accomplished within a 1-2 hour time frame.

2 – Pack the wilted flowers into the clean and sterilized jar, leaving 2-3 inches of head space.

3 – Pour alcohol into the jar, being sure the flowers are completely covered by 2-3 inches.  If it appears the flowers aren’t completely covered during the aging process, add more alcohol to insure they remain covered.

4 – Steep/soak the mixture in cool dark place for 4-6 weeks shaking the jar daily. 

5 – Strain the plant material from the liquid and put into a tincture bottle.  Alternately you may re jar in a newly clean and sterilized jar.  Label and date. The tincture will keep well throughout the winter when stored in a cool dark place or refrigerated.

Using St. John’s Wort Tincture: 
To be effective, this tincture must be taken regularly.  To use, take 1/2 – 1 tsp. daily. St. John’s Wort can take some time to become fully effective effect (about 3-4 weeks of regular use), so exercise patience.

*As with any home prepared or herbal remedy it is imperative that one consult with their health care provider to insure that there are no contraindications for use, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Although St. John’s can be very effective for depression, please remember that it is generally only recommended for mild depression.  If you experience moderate to severe depression, or are currently taking prescription anti-depressants please contact your health care provider prior to taking St. John’s Wort.*


Wonderful idea! They aren't quite ready yet in my neck of the woods, it's been a cold and rainy summer so far, but I will gather them as soon as they start blooming. And I'm glad you reminded me of the possibility of making a tincture, too, I've always just dried them. Thank you! :)

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