St. John’s Wort: 8 things to know about this anti-depression herb

A plant that was once used for “drive out demons”

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a medicinal plant, which belongs to the family of Hypericaceae.

In the Middle Ages, St. John’s Wort was called flight dœmon (which can be translated by “devil hunt”) and was used for “drive out demons” and to keep away all types of witchcraft that could make you “mad”.

St. John’s Wort, an anti-depressant frequently used in naturopathy

Externally, St. John’s Wort is a plant renowned for its antidepressant properties. Certain plant substances (hypericin, flavonoids and bioflavonoids) work “on the inhibition of the reuptake of several neurotransmitters”, which play an important role in balancing mood.

Anxiolytic and sedative, it helps to relax and improve the quality of sleep.

St. John’s Wort is indicated in cases of mild to moderate depression as well as in cases of seasonal depression for example, or melancholic states. In magic, it is said to chase away negative influences.

It is also interesting in women who suffer from PMS or at the time of menopause, in case of symptoms such as mild depression.

A gentle solution against digestive disorders

St. John’s Wort has another indication, less known, but which also seems effective thanks to its anti-inflammatory and healing action. It can be recommended against mild digestive disorders, such as heartburn or gastric reflux.

Irritation, insect bite… St. John’s Wort oil to relieve the skin

It is also possible to take advantage of this plant and its benefits, externally, in the form of an oily macerate. Its healing, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties can be beneficial on a wound, on an insect bite (mosquito bite, horsefly bite, spider bite, etc.), sunburn, a superficial burn of the skin or localized irritation.

Be careful, St. John’s Wort is a plant that is not suitable for everyone

If St. John’s Wort is a plant known for its many benefits, on the body and on the mind, it is not to be put in everyone’s hands.

It is not suitable for example for people who do sessions in a tanning booth, who expose themselves a lot to the sun and who do light therapy, because it is photosensitizing. Thus, it can be the cause of spots on the skin and damage to the eyes.

Also, some people can be very sensitive to this plant and suffer from side effects such as digestive problems, a feeling of fatigue, a dry mouth, nervousness. In this case, it is imperative to stop the consumption of this plant.

For people who suffer from severe depression with thoughts of suicide, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, it is essential to seek the advice of a doctor before taking St. John’s Wort.

People affected by Alzheimer’s disease should also seek specialist advice.

Finally, since St. John’s Wort is a powerful plant, it is not suitable for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under 6 years old.

St. John’s Wort: contraindications and interactions with certain drugs

This plant is contraindicated in people on antiretroviral treatment, chemotherapy or immunosuppressive treatment after a transplant for example.

There are risks of reducing the effectiveness of certain drugs with St. John’s Wort: anticoagulant therapy, antidepressants, digoxin, anticonvulsants, oral contraceptives, theophylline, ciclosporin are concerned. Do not hesitate to seek advice from your doctor.

Capsules, loose, oily macerate: how to choose them?

In oral form, for herbal teas, favor St. John’s Wort in bulk, organic, available in herbalists or organic stores.

For food supplements in capsules, seek advice from a phytotherapist, herbalist or naturopath, because it would ideally be necessary to choose extracts “titrated as a percentage of hypericin”.

For the oily macerate, preferably choose organic brands or small local producers.

Dosage, frequency, our advice for consuming St. John’s Wort?

  • In the form of herbal tea: put 1 tablespoon of flowering tops and young leaves in the equivalent of a cup of water, boil 2 minutes, then let infuse 10 minutes. Drink 2 to 3 cups a day: one cup around 5 p.m., then another before sleeping, until symptoms improve. If the discomfort is present as soon as you wake up, you can take a cup morning, noon, around 5 p.m. and in the evening (avoiding overexposure to the sun).
  • In the form of hydro-alcoholic extract: put 1 ml (about 30 drops) 2 to 3 times a day in place of the leaves and flowers.
  • In the form of capsules: contact a professional to adapt the treatment and dosage to your needs.
  • For premenstrual syndrome: start taking recommended dosages one week before your period and the first 2-3 days of bleeding.
  • In the form of oil for skin problems: apply as a poultice to the affected area. Also, it is possible to clean the wound, sting or light burn with the herbal tea before applying the oil. Do this daily until symptoms improve. Avoid sun exposure.

Thanks to Angélica Alcantara, Naturopath (, at Somasana,

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