St John's Wort History

Records of St John's wort date back more than 2000 years to the time of ancient Greece.

St John's Wort & Ancient Greece

As a medicinal herb, the ancient Greeks used St John's wort to treat ailments such as scatia and poisonous reptile bites. It was also used to treat anxiety and used as a sleep aid.

The Greeks added mystique to the plant through their belief that the smell of this plant would drive evil spirits away.

Throughout history, St John's wort has been referred to by historic physicians and philosophers.

Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates recommended Hypericium for 'nervous rest'. Hypericum perforatum is the Latin name for St. John's wort.

During the 16th century, physician Paracelsus recommended using St John's wort to heal wounds and contusions (bruising).

St John's Wort & The Europeans

Within Europe, from which it is indigenous to, St John's wort has traditionally been used to treat burns and wounds. St John's wort is also an established folk remedy of lung and kidney ailments. Europeans have used St John's wort to calm nerves and to help with anxiety and depression.

The name, St John's wort, also has historical significance. The first part, St John, refers to St John the Baptist.

St John's feast day, 24th June, is on the European midsummer day; around the time when St John's wort is at full bloom and harvested. The 'wort' part of the name refers to the old English name for plant.

St John's Wort & The Native Americans

In more recent times, when introduced across the Atlantic to the Americas, the Native Americans have used St John's wort as an:

  • abortifacient
  • antiseptic
  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory

The antibacterial properties of St John's wort were reported in 1959 and 1971. Hyperforin, one of the main extracts of St John's wort, was analyzed and found to be an active antibacterial substance.

Traditionally, St John's wort has also been used as a herbal tea.