St. John’s Wort

When we moved here for the lake view, I discovered the property we bought came with flowers. I had to ask my gardener friends the names of everything. I didn’t differentiate the beloved garden perennials (like peonies and day lilies) from the opportunists (like ox-eye daisies and buttercups). I just wanted to know what everything was.

Once you bother to ask something’s name, you wind up having a conversation. Weeds become wildflowers. Wildflowers become herbs. And herbs become folk medicines and dyestuff.

Bees love it too.

As soon as I was able to name St. John’s Wort, it became one of my favorites. The bright yellow flowers always make me smile. When they pop up (recognizable by the cross their leaves form when you look straight down at them), I cordon off the space from lawn mower blades and pick away any other greenery that might interfere with its flourishing. It’s one of the few herbs on our property that I have enough of to cut and dry. Even hanging upside down in bunches they are beautiful.

St. John’s Wort, drying

Before, I only thought of St. John’s Wort as a supplement in the vitamin section at the grocery store, ground up and stuffed into capsules. There is some evidence that it aids in fighting depression (outsells Prozac in Germany, according to my Peterson’s Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs). But just looking at them lifts my mood.

The folk medicine book says the herb is a nervine — calming the nerves. I made a salve from mine, for itchy skin. I don’t know if it is clinically efficacious, but it smells very sweet.

I have also used a bunch of it in a natural dye project. Under certain conditions, it can product a range of colors. I wound up with a soft green.

It’s a lovely friend to have.

Wine poured.

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