Common St. John’s-Wort – Hypericum Perforatum: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Happy Little Flower of Wild Plants

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Called nsidaiindamowin mshkiki by Joe from Creators Garden, “depression medicine”, St. John’s-wort is worthy of the happy little Bob Ross reference. It’s an edible and renown medicinal plant. Locals especially, check Joe out! He’s in Peterborough area.

While picking common for the title plant, I could just as well go all out hypericum var. There are many different St. John’s-worts around here! There are a few native species in Ontario (marsh, shrubby, calm as referred to by Joe) but you’re most likely to find the naturalized or invasive European imports. However, if you’re making medicine look out for the wild and native ones! The untitled found here as per Haliburton Flora are:

Common St. John’s-Wort – Hypericum Perforatum
Common St. John’s-Wort – Hypericum Perforatum
  • Two types of Northern St. John’s-wort (hypericum boreale and f. callitrichoides)
  • Canadian St. John’s-wort (h. canadense)
  • Pale St. John’s-wort (h. ellipticum)
  • Large St. John’s-wort (h. majus)
  • Dwarf St. John’s-wort (h. mutilum)
  • Marsh St. John’s-wort (triadenum fraseri or hypericum virginicum)

Edible Uses of St. John’s-Wort

The fresh leaves are edible and the flowers make a nice calming tea.

Medicinal Uses of St. John’s-Wort

St. John’s-wort is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary
  • Nervous
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Antiviral, Antispasmodic, Astringent, Diuretic, Expectorant and Sedative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the constituent hyperforin for mild depression, anxiety, SAD – as a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. Not for mania/bipolar disorder – not without a mood stabilizer anyway.

It’s best to source it yourself! Some of the products out there for sale don’t even have any hyperforin in them. You have to harvest at a precise time. Press the buds between your fingers and there should be a spurt of purple or deep red in the short window you’re looking for. The flowers should just be opening. I did not know this the first time I tried to make medicine from this plant, and it wasn’t even pink let alone a red. It must be a deep red! Timely picked flowers, and just the flowers, covered and inch over in olive oil, sit in sunlight for about 3 weeks til deep red. Strain and bottle.

The boost will likely be immediate and then drop off – you have to stick with it to give it a fair shot!

It’s also a great addition to skin salves including for bruising and strains. Pain salves too! You’ll want that deep red in that case too!

Alternative Uses of Amber Touch-and-heal

Yellow, green, red and pink dyes can be obtained.

Growing Hypericum Perforatum

This sun loving, hardy perennial has some preference for dry soil. It’s easy to germinate if you lightly press the seeds into the soil after the danger of frost has passed, without covering! However, it’s introduced here and there are native options that’ll help the wildlife more. Northern St. John’s-Wort (hypericum boreale) and Pale St. John’s-Wort (hypericum ellipticum) are the most common natives here (but there are more). We have two pink flowering marsh-loving varieties too! You can see the whole of them on iNat. I will cover the native ones in a separate post or two in the future.


The plant contains preformed photo-active compounds. Excessive, high dose use may cause photosensitivity, a rare complication resulting in sunburn, blistery lesions or rashes on areas of skin exposed to sunlight or therapy lights. There are so many inflated claims and fear-mongering about many plants in this regard – I will definitely be addressing it in a upcoming wild parsnip article!

This is one of the herbal medicines that is more likely to be contaminated or misused – reputable sourcing and guidance recommended.

St. John’s-wort can cause drug interactions.

Poisonous to livestock.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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Ontario Wildflowers: 101 Wayside Flowers

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

Native Plants, Native Healing: Traditional Muskagee Way

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

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2 thoughts on “Common St. John’s-Wort – Hypericum Perforatum: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Happy Little Flower of Wild Plants”

  1. Thank you!
    Very informative! I have just found hypericum mutilum in our fields! I was thinking I would have to actually find seeds and plant it before I could reap the benefits!


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