July is the height of summer, and the countryside is a vast array of beautiful flowers, one of which is St John’s Wort. In herbal astrology it was assigned as a ‘herb of the sun’ and you’ll always find it growing in a sunny spot. You probably know it for it’s ability to lift depression, particularly in winter, but did you know it makes a useful oil as well?
How To Make St John’s Wort Oil
Making an oil from St John’s Wort could not be easier and you don’t even need heat! I always use a good quality oil for this recipe, like cold pressed sunflower oil. The cheaper supermarket brands will do, but St John’s Wort makes such a wonderful medicinal oil, that I feel it is worth the extra cost.
On a warm sunny day in July, the bright yellow flowers of St John’s Wort will be out in all their glory – and it is just the flowers that are used to make this oil.
Gather the flowers carefully – if you snip the off right at the tips of their stalks, you will see that there is another pair of buds just below, waiting for their turn to flower. So by taking only the very terminal flower, you will ensure that the plant will continue to flower and eventually set seed – which is essential for long term survival. You don’t need to wash the flowers before putting them into the jar, but you could spread them out on a tray for an hour or so to let any critters run off.
Wash a jam jar in very hot water (not boiling!) and allow it to air dry.
Put the flowers in the jar, and add the oil – enough to cover them, and just a little more.
Place the jar on a sunny window sill.
Now all you do is wait – no need even to shake the jar!
Within about six to eight weeks, the oil will develop into a beautiful crimson red colour, as the flowers give up their goodness.
What Could Go Wrong When You Make St John’s Wort Oil?
1- you mistake St John’s Wort for Ragwort. DON’T DO THIS! Ragwort is poisonous and when you look closely is quite different to St John’s Wort. Here’s a picture of Ragwort so you can compare it with the St John’s Wort picture above.
2- your jar explodes (yes really!) or your oil looks mouldy. That would be because the jar wasn’t quite clean enough.
How To Use St John’s Wort Oil
St John’s Wort Oil is a really valuable addition to your herbal home first aid kit, and it can be used to soothe minor burns, scrapes, and bruises especially where an injury has just happened and there’s still some shock. It’s especially good though for helping nerve pain like you’d get with sciatica, shingles, following certain injuries, surgical procedures, or treatments. Some people find that using the oil on their skin makes it extra sensitive to strong sunlight, and more likely to burn, so do take care in the summer.
More About St John’s Wort Oil
It is still a mystery to me why the oil ends up red, since the flowers are yellow! My pharmacology books tell me it is all due to “hypericin”, a constituent in the flowers of St John’s Wort – it gets its name from Hypericum, the Latin name of the plant. In former times, without the benefit of this modern scientific knowledge, St John’s Wort was believed to have magical properties. It was named after St John, who was Jesus cousin, so whilst Jesus’ birthday is celebrated around the winter solstice at the end of December, St John’s Day is around the summer solstice at the end of June. This is when the flowers would usually start to come out, hence it’s name, and if you look at the plant from above, it makes the shape of a cross.
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