My first introduction to St. John’s Wort essential oil was in the early 2000s as it was one of the oils covered in one of the SPE Diploma Courses. Once I was introduced to the oil, I found it interesting to see how I could also incorporate it into my regular aromatherapy practice. A year or so later, while attending a BCAPA’s Continuing Education Workshop, I was fascinated to hear Rhiannon Lewis recommend St. John’s Wort as an excellent remedy for Jet Lag.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Plant Description: A perennial herb native to Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. Introduced and naturalized in parts of Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. In summer it has scented yellow flowers with black dots. Its leaves are small and stalkless and covered with tiny perforations, which are in fact translucent glands and it has extensive creeping rhizomes.
History/Folklore: St. John’s Wort was known as the “Grace of God’. In England it has been said to cure mania, in Russia it gave protection and in Brazil, it was known as an antidote to snakebite. When crushed the leaves release a balsamic odor similar to incense, and it was said that this was strong enough to drive away evil spirits. The red pigment from the crushed flowers was taken to signify the blood of St. John at his beheading. The herb is in full flower on June 24th which is St. John’s Day. Another origin of the name is said to be from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who used it to heal wounds during the Crusades.
Extraction: A yellow essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of the flowering tops of the plant, with a yield of around 0.5 – 0.9%.
Aroma: The aroma is described as bitter, and slightly woody, with some underlying sweetness.
Odour intensity: Medium
Perfume Note: Middle
Blends well with: Herb, flower and wood oils.
Perfume Key Qualities: Uplifting.
Chemistry: Monoterpenes (42 – 45%); Sesquiterpenes (3 – 5%); Alkanes (41%); Alcohols (0.2 – 2.5%)
Cautions: Not a lot of information is available but generally considered safe to use. Skin sensitization could occur if the oil has become oxidized. Avoid using old or oxidized oil. The plant contains hypericin, which can be powerfully photoactive when ingested, however, this large molecule is not present in the distilled oil. (Tisserand and Young)
Traditionally used on a physical level for:
Skin Care: Skincare, eczema, inflamed, irritated or traumatized skin, fungal infections.
Circulation, muscles and joints: Muscle aches and pains, back injuries, spinal trauma.
Digestive System: upset stomach, gastro-duodenal ulcers, dyspepsia
Traditionally used on a psychological level for: Insomnia, addictions, depression, stress, nervous tension. I have also heard that it is excellent for Jet Lag.
On a subtle level, St. John’s Wort can be helpful in clearing and healing deep emotional wounding.
In Dr. Bruce Berkowsky’s Spiritual PhytoEssencing, St. John’s Wort is considered first and foremost a nerve. Dr. Berkowsky says St. John’s Wort, exerts an effect upon all the nerves and in particularly the spinal cord. Used for spinal irritation and injury. It is especially indicated when the nerve injury is associated with shooting or lancinating pains extending from the seat of the injury. Also a primary remedy for injuries to the nerves of the fingers and toes, and nerve pain associated with dental work.
In Spiritual PhytoEssencing St. John’s Wort is considered to have a strong theme of injury.
Also, think of St. John’s Wort when someone says “I was crushed.”
Steffen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, 1960 Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils ©1998-2018 Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc. Tony Burfield, Natural Aromatic Materials – Odours & Origins, 2000 Ernst Guenther, The Essential Oil, Vol V, 1948 reprinted 1972 Beverley Hawkins, Essential Oils and Carriers, Aromatherapy 101, Aromatherapy 201, Aromatherapy 301, 1999-2018 Julia Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, 1995 Tisserand and Young, 2nd Edition Essential Oil Safety, 2014