Thursday, August 1, 2013


St. John's Wort-Hypericum Perforatum, Hypericum Anagalloides, Hypericum Formosum

Also known as:  Klamath weed, goatweed, tipton weed, devil's scourge, rosin weed, god's wonder plant, amber, Mary's sweat, St. John's blood, etc.

Parts used:  Aerial parts
Meridians/Organs affected:  liver, nervous system, digestive, respiratory

Properties:  sedative, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antidepressant, antiviral, antispasmodic, styptic, expectorant, anti-anxiety, vulnerary, nervine, diuretic, resolvent, antibacterial

This plant is in a class of its own.  That is the 'Hypericaceae' family.  The smooth upright stems on this mid-sized perennial are highly branched.  The leaves are arranged perpendicular to each other and are elliptical to oblong and covered with tiny translucent dots that are visible when held up to the light.  The top is covered with clusters of bright yellow flowers that bloom June to September.  Rubbing the flowers between one's fingers will produce a red stain.  The seeds germinate readily and can even germinate after long periods of being buried.  It grows best in rich soil and full sun although it can also be found in dry, sandy places.  It is common along highway banks, median strips, grasslands, vacant lots, stone walls, rock out-croppings, meadows, etc.  It is best gathered on hot sunny days if one is planning to use the plant fresh in oils and tinctures.  (The hot sun brings out the most medicinal components of this plant).  It can get up to 3 feet high and is found in almost every country.  By 1830 here in the states it was considered to be a serious weed as it would make animals that consumed it photosensitive.  There are 300 species of Hypericum worldwide but the most commonly used variety is the Hypericum Perforatum.

The Latin term 'hypericum' comes from the 'Hyper-Ikon' which was a term used to describe an image of this plant that was placed about the picture of John the Baptist which meant it could give one power over ghosts and evil spirits.  Indeed, hypericum in the Greek means "over the apparitions".  It was believed that one needed to ask the plant for help on the eve of St. John's day to ward off witches and demons.  It was considered to be a powerful sun herb that could dispel darkness which incidentally is where the 'perforatum' name comes from (referring to the translucent dots signature of St. John's Wort).  The sun is also believed to control the solar plexus in the body which is why it is believed St. John's Wort helps with digestive and nervous system issues.  As such it has been used for bed-wetting (especially in children), menstrual issues and menopause.

For centuries St. John's Wort has been known by herbalists as a vulnerary and was carried by the Crusaders when going to battle.  The red juice from the plant was believed to symbolize the blood of John the Baptist for whom the plant is named.  It is best known for its antidepressant abilities.  (St. John's Wort is also known as 'Nature's Prozac).  In fact, there have been a series of studies to that effect.  Twenty five double blind studies on a total of 1,592 patients were conducted using standardized St. John's Wort extract.  Fifteen of those were to compare it to a placebo and ten of those to compare it to other antidepressants on the market.  In the studies, St. John's Wort was shown to improve depression, apathy, insomnia, anxiety, anorexia, feeling of worthlessness and many other psychological issues.  The advantages of using St. John's Wort over a pharmaceutical are numerous some of which being that it is much cheaper to take, has far less side effects (aside from making one sun sensitive it can also cause minor stomach irritation) and it was found to satisfy the bulk of the patients who took it.  In one such study regarding SAD (seasonal Affective Disorder), patients were given 300 mg, 3 times daily of standardized extract of St. John's Wort for four weeks.  At the end of the study 60% of the people had seen a significant improvement in their symptomology.  It was even more so when combined with light therapy (72% improved).  However, St. John's Wort does far more than just help with depression and mood disorders.  It has been used for sciatica and rheumatism due to its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic capabilities.  It is a well known anti-viral agent that is now being studied for possible applications in HIV and AIDS.  Due to its astringent affects it has been employed by many an herbalist for lacerations, deep wounds, severe burns and infections.  It also has a reputation for being hemostatic as it has been used to control bother external and internal bleeding.  It is also used as an expectorant to expel mucus from the lungs and respiratory system.  The oil has been used for bruises, sprains, surgical scars, burns, injuries caused by crushing or any kind of trauma or nerve damage, tennis elbow, sciatica and severe wounds.  When taken in tincture, tea or capsule form it has been used to relieve anxiety, shingles, nervous tension, bed-wetting in children and issues relating to menopause.  According to Jethro Kloss (author of Back to Eden), it is a powerful blood purifier.  It has been used over the millennia for boils, tumors, diarrhea, dysentery, jaundice, hysteria, chronic uterine issues, pains following childbirth, etc.  It has been used as a poultice for sores, ulcers, breast complaints and wounds in general.  Parkinson said of St. John's Wort, ' is as singular and herbe as any other whatsoever, eyther for inward wounds, hurts or bruises, to be boyled in wine and drunke or prepared into oyle or ointment, bathe or lotion hath power to open obstructions, to dissolve tumours, to consolidate or soder the lips of wounds, and to strengthen the parts that are weake and feeble.'  If we follow the doctrine of signatures a yellow flowered plant is good for liver conditions.  It is said to be one of the very best herbs for shingles if one takes the oil and applies it to the painful areas while drinking the tincture at the same time.

It was included in Dioscoredes 'De Materia Medica' as a traditional use for wounds and ulcers.  It was used as a preservative for cheese and as a source for reddish dye.  The two main components in St. John's Wort, hypericin and pseudohypericin, were both found to inhibit the growth of retro viruses including HIV and AIDS in animals.  It was also found to be effective against tuberculosis and staphylococcus aureus.

St. John's Wort is not without its vices.  Anyone taking this herbs should not be out in the sun, especially those who are light skinned and prone to sunburn.  Also, St. John's Wort interferes with the absorption of many pharmaceutical medications including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, psychotropic medications, anti-seizure medications, anti-hypertensive medications, heart medications, diabetic drugs, cancer drugs and anticoagulants (possibly because St. John's Wort competes for those as well).  Pregnant women, the elderly and small children should consult with a physician before using this herb.  It is also not recommended for long term use (again possibly due to the fact it makes one phototoxic).

The tincture of good quality dried leaves and flowers of St. John's Wort is one of the exceptions to the rule of sun maceration.  This tincture whether fresh or dried should be done in the dark. 

As with all of my postings I have included some links below for your benefit.  Use them as you see fit.  Be happy and stay healthy!


Dill-Anethum Graveolens

Also known as:  dillweed, dilly, garden dill, dill fruit

Parts used:  Aerial parts

Meridians/Organs affected:  stomach, spleen, liver

Properties:  carminative, antiemetic, antispasmodic, stomachic, emmenogogue, diuretic, galactogogue, calmative, aromatic, stimulant, diaphoretic

Dill is a hardy, upright annual that has a smell not easily confused with any other plant.  (Personally the scent of dill sets my mouth to watering and my stomach to rumbling.)  It has ovate leaves divided into thread like segments and umbels of yellow flowers that appear in the summer followed by oval shaped seeds.  It can get up to 3 feet tall and is considered a wonderful companion plant to many a gardener.  It grows well with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, onions and lettuce.  However, if growing with carrots it should be harvested before it matures as once mature it will impede the growth of the carrots.

Dill is a Middle Eastern herb that has been around since Biblical times.  The leaves and flowers of dill were found buried with the mummified remains of Ameophis II (1425 BC) and were also used medicinally by the Copts (early native Christian Egyptians) and the Egyptians in general.  It is spoken of in the Talmud (Jewish text) as being subject to taxation and in ancient Rome, Pliny (23-79 AD) spoke of its multiple uses by the Romans.  It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years for its carminative effects on the body.  In more recent centuries it has been used primarily for colicky babies.  It works very well for stomach aches in adults too.  It has been used to assist in insomnia related to indigestion (which happens more often than not in this day and age due to poor dietary choices and poor food combinations).  Taken as a tea by nursing mothers it can increase breast milk production.  The root has been boiled and used as a tea to combat flus, colds and coughs.  The English would steep fresh dill in white wine for several days and use it for flatulence and stomach cramps.  Extracts of dill are calming to the digestive system and works also as a mild diuretic.  Interestingly enough, dill is also recognized by herbalists as an anti-infective agent.  In colonial times mother would make something they called "dill cakes" for babies to chew on when teething (it was known to have a soothing effects on the gums and helped to alleviate the pain).  It has been used to relieve hiccups, prevent fermentation in the intestines (of foods that do not digest well), and to calm the nerves.  The seeds have been chewed to relieve or remedy bad breath.

Dill is a splendid herb with a lot of culinary applications aside from its medicinal uses.  It can be used for far more than just pickles.  Dill is great with fish, eggs, cucumbers, soups, sauces, meats, vegetables, seafood, etc.  Try using it more in your own kitchen or make yourself a cup of dill tea when you have indigestion and see how well it helps out.  Kitchen spices are far more than simple spices, one has a virtual medical lab right in the culinary kitchen cabinet.

As with all of my posts I have included some links here in regards to dill.  Enjoy!


Cleavers-Gallium Aparine

Also known as:  bedstraw, gravel grass, maid's hair, cheese rennet, gosling weed, hedge-burrs, clivers, goose grass, coach weed, grip grass, goose's hair, scratch weed, milk sweet, poor robin, clabber grass, savoryan, cheese rent herb, cleaver wort, etc.

Parts used:  Aerial parts

Meridians/Organs affected:  bladder, gallbladder, kidneys, lymphatic

Properties:  refrigerant, diuretic, aperient, alterative, tonic, mild astringent, antiscorbutic, lithotriptic

This herb is a member of the Madder family.  It is also known as bedstraw and there are at least 13 different species of it in the Pacific Northwest alone.  There are both perennial and annual versions of this plant.  The annuals tend to be the ones with weaker taproots and have more delicate stems than those of their perennial counterparts.  Cleavers has 4 sided stems and slender leaves that grow in whorled clusters of 2-8 (depending on the variety) looking much like the spokes on a wheel.  The flowers are very tiny and white.  Cleavers is called such as it has thousands of tiny little hooks on the angles of its stems.  This allows the plant to propagate easily as it is transferred around by whomever or whatever passes by.  The perennial varieties do not share this trait.  It blooms from May to July but is best collected before it flowers in the spring.  It can be found growing in moist areas, along streams, shady ravines, dry, sunny areas and road margins.  Northern bedstraw is common across the usa and most of the northern hemisphere up to 6,000 feet.  It can get up to 3 feet tall. 

Bedstraw (one of its common names) is named due to the fact that in earlier times it was used to stuff pillows and mattresses.  Christian legend has it that it was used to provide a bed for Christ in the manger. 

Cleavers has been used for hundreds of years for any number of things.  It was used commonly as a hair dye but it take ALOT of cleavers to achieve this.  The leaves and stems provide a nice yellow shade while the roots provide a red color.  With this plant it appears you get a two for one deal.  Gerard said that people used it in his time to '...turne their milke and cheese, which they make of sheepes and goates milke...'  Hence another name for cleavers, cheese rennet.

The Elizabethan herbalists used cleavers for nosebleeds, internal bleeding and would often use the juice or tea on the feet of weary travelers to ease their discomfort.  John Parkinson wrote of cleavers, " serveth the country people instead of a strainer, to cleare their milke from strawes, haires or any other thing that falleth into it."  Indeed it has been used as such in the past, and when it is weaved together it does work fairly well in that capacity.

Cleavers is highly regarded as a lymphatic cleanser and a lymph tonic.  The fresh plant tea or juice is used to stimulate drainage of the lymph system.  In essence think of it as a pipe cleaner for the lymph system.  It is also used in that capacity for swollen glands, tonsillitis, earaches and other adenoid issues.  It also helps to shrink tumors and to remove growths on the skin.  The Austrian herbalist Maria Treben has used cleavers tea as a gargle to treat tongue and throat cancers.  It has been used by many natural healers for thyroid related issues, including goiter.  It is also one of the most effective diuretic blood purifiers we have.  It works for all urinary issues including cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, kidney inflammation and bladder irritations.  It helps to push out deposits in those areas as well.  It has also been used to ease reproductive organ inflammation as well as for things like venereal disease and hepatitis.  It is great for skin issues as it nourished the skin through its cleansing process.  It makes a great poultice for burns and scalds.  It is a cooling herb and as such it is appropriate for such things as fevers, measles, scarlet fever, etc.  Herbalists also have used this for chronic fatigue and mononucleosis.

Cleavers is highly astringent and high in tannins (remember when taking herbs that are high in tannins that milk should be used with it to bind to the tannins making them inert for the most part).  As it is high in tannins one should only take this herb in 2 week increments (2 weeks on and 2 weeks off).  It also loses some of its effectiveness when dried so it is more potent when used as a fresh herb.

Cleavers is also a nutritive herb and is a rich source of vitamin C and chlorophyll.  They should be cooked before ingesting to soften the barbs on the plant (annual varieties).  It has been used as a hot compress to stop bleeding and to soothe sore muscles.  It has also been dried, ground and sprinkled onto wounds and cuts to stop bleeding and assist in the healing processes.  Cleavers extracts or tinctures have been shown to be useful in lowering blood pressure and to combat certain kinds of yeast.

For whatever the reason...this is an herb that deserves more attention.  It has the capacity to do amazing things in regards to healing the sick and keeping the healthy in an optimum condition.  Consider keeping some around as you never know when you might need it.

As with all of my posts I have included some links below that pertain to cleavers.  Please use them as you deem fit.  Be happy and stay healthy!