Summertime Folk Tincture of St. John’s Wort

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This post comes from Summer Ashley and Sarah Kate of The Great Kosmic Kitchen!

This small shrub with tiny yellow blooms invokes a child-like fascination within me.

When the fresh flowers are squeezed they produce a bright red medicine that drips between your fingertips. The juice feels like the blood of the plant, its life force. This magical plant goes by the name of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum).

folk-tincture lead

St. John’s Wort is a great plant for beginning herbalists and medicine makers because it grows wild, is easily accessible and can be used internally as well as externally. I was first called to work with St. John’s Wort because of its affinity to reduce stress, anxiety and mild depression when used consistently overtime. St. John’s Wort has a reputation of being a “Trauma Herb,” healing traumas of the skin and soul. Its blood red anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory medicine is wonderful for treating bruises, burns, sprains, reducing pain and infections.

running in field

***Because herbs work on deeper levels, when using for anxiety, stress, and mild depression, use 2-3 times daily, over a three week period or longer. You can start with one dropper full, and up the dose to two if you feel your body needs more.

A great way to preserve St.John’s Wort’s medicine is by creating a tincture. Our ancestors, the folk healers, would gather plants through the seasons and preserve them to use when necessary. Brandy is often used when making folk tinctures because it draws out the water-soluble constituents and alcohol extracted constituents (like resins and volatile oils). Tinctures also can be carried around in a small bottle, which makes herbal healing easy and convenient. It’s also a great way to invite plant ceremony into our everyday lives.

The folk method of herbal medicine making is not as precise as the standard method (the method that’s used in tinctures at health stores) but it comes from a long tradition and can be just as effective. I will be sharing this simple method of making medicine with you.

FIRSTgather your herbs and materials.

materials

Brandy or vodka
St. Johns Wort (top three inches of the bloom)
Knife and cutting board
Mason jar
Tincture bottles (optional)
Muslin
Labels

The best place to gather herbs would be from your own garden. If this is not possible, be sure to find a trustworthy local herb shop or a company like Mountain Rose Herbs or Pacific Botanicals who sell organic and ethically cultivated and wild crafted medicinal herbs. It is best to tincture St. John’s Wort fresh. St Johns Wort can be found in spring or early summer growing abundantly in the wild across North America. Be sure to consult your local herbalist and bring a bioregional plant I.D. book when identifying wild plants for the first time.

*** If the herbs are bring harvested from the wild, please be mindful of plants at risk, whether or not the plant has been sprayed or is in a polluted area, and give an offering to the plant. It is a symbol of respect and tradition to sing to the plants, offer tobacco, and to ask the plant if it is okay to harvest its precious medicine. Also, keep in mind that there are poisonous lookalikes to medicinal plants.

picking flowers

THENchop and macerate.

Chop up the flowers of St. John’s Wort as small as possible. The more surface area that is exposed during the maceration process, the stronger the medicine will be! Then you will be ready to macerate, which means, letting the plant sit in alcohol for one month. This process pulls out all the healing constituents that make tinctures therapeutic!

For your menstrum (or solvent) you will need to use some sort of alcohol. If you prefer not to use alcohol, some herbalists like to use a glycerite (which is sweeter) or apple cider vinegar to extract the constituents. Traditionally brandy or some form of alcohol like vodka was used in folk tinctures.

Fill a jar all the way to the top with your herbs. Cover the plant material with your brandy. Let the herbs macerate for one full lunar cycle. Starting medicines on the full moon can be a magical practice that keeps the medicine potent and with the cycles of nature. Label your jar with the ingredients and date, and store in indirect light. Shake the jar daily with good intentions.

***Remember that you are powerful and the energy that you put forth and the intentions that you set will come through in the medicine.

FINALLY, strain and enjoy!

tincture in bottle

After a month has passed, strain out your herb with the muslin cloth. Squeeze out any remaining liquid that might be in the herb. Compost the finished herb, which is also known as the marc. Pour the tincture back into the jar or into a dosage bottle with a label including what it is, whether the herb was fresh or dried, and what menstrum you used. You have now made your very first folk tincture!

Now you can make medicine from all the beautiful plants that grow around you. You will begin to discover that most of what you need is close by. The St. John’s Wort along the old fire trails, the kudzu on the pine trees, the wild oats dancing in the pasture, and the dandelions in your lawn, all the plants are here waiting for you!

flowers

With love in our hearts and medicine in our hands,

Summer Ashley and Sarah Kate of The Great Kosmic Kitchen

Follow Summer and Sarah on Facebook and Instagram!

*When using any form of medication, natural or not, you should always consult your doctor before use!

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Comments

snow -June 26, 2014, 11:29AM

I have a young St. John’s Wort plant and cannot wait to do beautiful things with the blooms like this tincture! I love the idea of setting it to the lunar calendar; I am going to apply this method to a lot of homemade remedies now!

J -June 26, 2014, 11:39AM

If you’re on birth control you can’t take st john’s wort because it will mess up your menstrual cycle, you should also stay away from it if you are already on medication to cure anxiety or depression as st john’s wort will interfere with the medication. My doctor told me this when I was looking to buy the tincture from my local herbal shop.

Summer Ashley -June 26, 2014, 3:30PM

J brings up a good point. It is always best to talk to your doctor before taking herbs, especially if you are on medications. If you live near an herbalist a consultation would provide you with the best medicine for your body’s constitution. Every being is different, therefore our experience with the plants will vary too. Some things are commonly seen with SJW like hyper sensitivity to the sun and interference with pharmaceutical anti-depressants. It has also been noted to be avoided during pregnancy in some literature, as many herbs are. Overall it is a pretty safe plant to use, but it is always a good point to research what we are putting into our bodies!

Lauren -June 26, 2014, 4:47PM

I love these photos! They are so beautiful! And I love DIY herbal remedies :)

Lauren | http://www.livelovelauren.com

Rita Tocta -June 26, 2014, 5:05PM

Yes st john’s wort is an herb that expulses all other quimicals in your body, I don’t take quimical pharmaceutical products, but for those who do be aware that will cancel their action on your system. St John’s wort (here known as Planta de São João) is so common here and last Monday were St John celebrations (which descends from other pagan celebrations), we make little bouquets with St John wort, rosemary, lavander and white roses and give to people we care about, so they are protected. Also, it smells wonderfully for months either in the closet or in the car!

Christopher -June 26, 2014, 5:20PM

St John’s wort is such a beautiful herb to work with! This was a great explanation on how to put the power of making medicine in our own hands. Love it!

Karen -June 26, 2014, 6:59PM

Thank you so much for this lovely and thorough post! I am going to pass it on to my hypnotherapy clients as a way for people to take charge of their own (mental) health <3

kate -June 26, 2014, 7:37PM

Beware of other medication you might be doing! I’m a medical student and I’ve already witnessed a case of hepatitis due to the comsumption of st John wort’s tea! Please check with your doctor before taking any of these homemade medicine! I really can’t stress this enough!

Juliette Laura -June 27, 2014, 1:26AM

Ahhh, I had never heard of this!

http://juliettelaura.blogspot.com/

Laura -June 28, 2014, 11:04AM

To reiterate what Kate already said, St. John’s wort can interfere with many other medications by affecting their metabolism in the liver. Just because natural herbs are not prescription medications, they can still have serious side effects. Definitely consult a doctor before use!

Emily -June 29, 2014, 3:14PM

You probably want to put warnings about potentially drug serious interactions that can happen when taking other medications with St. John’s Wort. It can also be bad for certain medical conditions. It can also increase photo-sensitivity, if I remember correctly, when applied topically. Don’t risk getting sued!! Drugs are drugs whether they come straight from nature or are filled at your local pharmacy!!

M -July 5, 2014, 9:25PM

In agreement with previous comments, before recommending tinctures It is important that you do research, and take some responsibility by giving warning to your readers about possible complications and side effects. Although SJW is a relatively safe herb and effective for mild to moderate depression, it can also interfere with birth control and other medication, and should NEVER be taken alongside any other prescription anxiolytics, antidepressants, or antipsychotics as it can block plasma systems and render those drugs ineffective. Furthermore it has also been shown to trigger psychoses in vulnerable individuals on or off medication… So yea, herbs should be taken with the same seriousness of other drugs and the effects of SJW are well worth a little more of a warning than just the ol’ “consult your doctor first.”

channa -July 19, 2014, 8:46PM

Does anyone know if the bigger shrubby st john work as well? It doevnt have the red bleeding thru the flowers like the smaller st john does ..?

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