Going on a St. John’s wort hunt

I love sharing, so when my friend told me that she wanted to learn more about healing herbs and how to process them, I was more than happy to teach her. Alexia, a woman of many talents, helped design our Know Your Roots logo. As part of my thank you, I am supplying her with my Allergies Begone tincture, made from my beloved Goldenrod, as well as teach her how to identify and process herbs. Our first herb was St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), since it is by far my favorite herb to process. Aside from being, a very sensual process, St. John’s wort salve is a magical nerve pain reliever; anti-inflammatory as well as helps cells regenerate.

St. John’s wort starts to bloom around the summer solstice and lasts until mid-July. So, we scheduled a visit for the first weekend in July. Saturday morning we headed out without our families to collect St. John’s wort to make infused oil. It likes to grow in well-drained, sandy soils, pastures, abandoned fields, along roadsides and in other sunny locations. The bright yellow flowers tend to stand above the rests of the plants. It usually grows around two feet tall but in an ideal site, it can reach five feet. When you look down at the stalk from a bird’s eye view, the stems branch out in the shape of a cross.

Bird's eye view of St. John's wort

Bird’s eye view of St. John’s wort
photo by Alexia Rodriguez

The yellow, five petal flowers have many stamens with minute black dots along the margins. There are many flowers found in flat groups at the top of the plant.

Notice the black dots around the margin of each petal.

Notice the black dots around the margin of each petal.
photo by Alexia Rodriguez

Hold the small oblong leaf up to the light and (if your eyes are good enough) you will see tiny pinholes through every leaf. These are the hypericum oil glands. When you squeeze the leaves and flowers a red pigment oozes out and turns your fingers purple. Hypericin is the medicinal property you want to extract into your oil.

Tiny pinholes in the leaf.

Tiny pinholes in the leaf.
photo by Alexia Rodriguez

After awhile, Alexia became quite the St. John’s wort hunter. No plant seemed to elude her. We harvested the flowers and the top leaves, right as the buds were starting to open. The unopened flowers have the highest concentration of hypericin. We only harvested a couple flowers from each plant. It is very important to never over harvest plants so they can self propagate for the future. After a couple hours, we decided we had enough blossoms to make our infused oils, so we headed home.

We ripped apart the blossoms to break down the cell walls allowing the hypericin to infuse into the oil.

releasing the hypericin

releasing the hypericin

Once the jar was full, we filled it with organic, cold press olive oil, leaving a ¼ inch at the top.


photo by Alexia Rodriguez

We stirred the oil, making sure all of the plants were covered.


photo by Alexia Rodriguez

Cap, shake and label (for a more detailed description of making infused St. John’s wort oil please refer to other blog).

The jar will infuse in the sun for 6 weeks, after which then we will make it into a salve. I marked my calendar and Alexia put a notation into her I phone.

By the next day, the oil had already started to change from yellow to orange. A very good sign that by the end of the week it will be bright red. That means the oil is becoming a strong pain reliever.

I can’t wait to use it.

When you collect any herbs, please keep in mind:

  • Be sure you have made a definite identification, use a field guide.
  • Harvest it in a respectfully way, leave some, please do not overharvest, make sure there will be a healthy crop for the future.
  • Harvest away from traffic and areas where chemicals have not been sprayed or animals relieve themselves.
  • If you are unsure, it is best to move on and not harvest in that area.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.





2 thoughts on “Going on a St. John’s wort hunt

  1. Hunt on!! You know how much the salve – total back pain game changer. Am almost ready to reorder.

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