Hypericum perforatum. N.O. Hypericaceae.
Some thirteen different varieties of St. John’s Wort flourish in England, but Hypericum perforatum is the only one included in the herbal materia medica, and may be distinguished from the others by the small hole-like dots on the leaf.
Habitat ► Hedges and woods.
Features ► The upright, woody but slender stem, branching from the upper part only, attains a height of between one and two feet. The leaves are stalkless and elliptical in shape, about half an inch long, grow in pairs on opposite sides of the stem and branches and, in addition to the transparent dots noticed above, are sometimes marked with black spots on the under side. Numerous bright yellow flowers, dotted and streaked with dark purple, cluster, in June and July, at the ends of side branches and stem. A bitter, astringent taste is remarked.
Action ► Expectorant, diuretic and astringent.
Indicated in coughs, colds, and disorders of the urinary system. It was prescribed more often by the English herbal school of a hundred years ago than it is to-day, and was noticed as far back as Culpeper for “wounds, hurts and bruises.” Indeed, an infusion of the fresh flowers in Olive oil, to make the “Oil of St. John’s Wort,” is still used as an application to wounds, swellings, and ulcers. Internally, the infusion of 1 ounce of the herb to 1 pint of boiling water is taken in wineglass doses.
In America St. John’s Wort grows freely in the cornfields, which proximity was held by Tilke to operate beneficially upon both herb and grain. Discussing American wheat which has grown among quantities of St. John’s Wort he tells us ► “It is well known, by almost every baker who works in his business, that this flour improves the quality of the bread, by
having a small quantity of it in every batch, particularly in seasons when the English flour is of inferior quality. A clever author informs us that it contains one-fourth more gluten than our famous wheats grown in Gloucestershire, known by the name of ‘rivets.’ ” Tilke was himself a baker in his early days.