Hypericum is mainly used for ornamental purposes, but did you know it also has medicinal properties?
Why is hypericum called St. John’s wort?
More commonly referred to as St. John’s wort, hypericum has tiny yellow star-shaped flowers used as an herb. Its nickname is derived from the feast honoring St. John the Baptist on June 23rd, which is widely celebrated in the Christian and Catholic communities. It is tradition to pluck the herb on the night of the feast, and take it to church to receive a blessing. The herb was believed to have special powers to ward off evil spirits.
Origin & Characteristics
The hypericum plant is native to the mediterranean region of Europe, and also North Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia. The plant has leafy stems that are 24 to 36 inches in length and has round berries in clusters at the top. There are more than 400 cultivars of hypericum, and in a wide range of colors such as red, brown, ivory, pink, and burgundy for example. One third of those cultivars are used as ornamental cut flowers.
Almost 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended St. John’s wort to treat nervous unrest. The medicinal properties lie in the black dots along the margin of the blossom, which contain hypericin. The chemical makeup of hypericin is believed to produce sedative and pain relieving effects. In the Roman era, St. John’s wort was used to treat wounds from the battlefield. Hypericum is thought to treat mild depression, insomnia and anxiety. Used externally, it is used to treat wounds, mild burns, skin disorders and bruises.