St. John’s wort, the magnificent

St. John’s wort, the magnificent

{ Pictured: This year Hypericum perforatum, commonly known as St. John’s wort, came late in our parts, but, Glory to God, here it is! }

It is said that in ancient times Greek soldiers used the oil made with the flowers of Hypericum perforatum, a plant commonly known as St. John’s wort, to dress their sword wounds inflicted in battle. This plant, known to help with wound healing, is still around and has been used for centuries for making a red colored oil that has many traditional uses, one of its most renowned ones being its capacity as a wound healing agent. To this day this oil is known in Greece as spatholado (“sword oil”).

They say that “a dear child has many names” or “a child with many names is much loved.” What if this is also the case with plants? Could it be that plants that have been kept at a high esteem since time immemorial, plants that have accompanied man in his adventures for centuries in the capacity of food or medicine, have acquired through the ages a wealth of names? If this is so, then St. John’s wort would indeed be one of those plants. In my country this plant with flowers as bright as the sun is also known as “valsamo”, translating to balm in the English language. Now, “valsamo”, as it happens, also means, in the Greek folk tongue, medicine. Not the kind of medicine that comes from a chemist’s laboratory, but that “wholesome medicine”, of divine origin, given to us in the form of a plant. Indeed, in the English language the same definition more or less is given to “balsam”: oil with a pleasant smell that is obtained from some types of trees and plants, used in the past to help wounds (= make them better) {Oxford Dictionary definition}

{ Our cat, Blackie, next to our first large St. John’s wort harvest for this year. }

So, one comes to the surprising realisation that a term universally used to refer to a kind of wholesome medicine, is, in Greek, just another name for St. John’s wort, the plant the ancient warriors used as medicine for sword wounds and the plant that 16th century physician Paracelcus referred to in these words: "The doctor should know that God has put a great arcanum (mystery) into the herb, for St. John's Wort is a universal medicine for the whole human being." Paracelsus considered St. John’s wort as the “king” of herbs, a universal remedy, especially indicated for wounds, but also, when take internally as tincture, for despair (depression) and suicidal tendencies provoked by “specters” (visions of evil spirits). 

The traditional medicinal uses of St. John’s wort were closely associated with its spiritual properties. In Greek and Roman times, it was used not only for spiritual protection, but also as a fumigant for purification of the home, and for a host of ailments from wounds and bites, digestive disorders, and melancholia (depression). The Greek physicians of the first century, Galen, Dioscorides, Pliny, and Hippocrates, recommended St. John’s wort as a diuretic, wound-healing herb, treatment for menstrual disorders, and cure for intestinal worms and snakebites. Flowering tops placed in olive oil caused the oil to turn red after three weeks. This is the St. John’s wort oil, famous in traditional medicine, known in Greece to this day as valsamolado (balsam oil in English).

St. John’s wort, the demon chaser

As mentioned above, the ancients believed the plant had mystical qualities, and plants were collected for protection from demons and to drive away evil spirits. To this day, looking at the plant’s folk names in european languages, one can see that this was a common notion among the peoples of Europe. In French the plant is known as “chase diable”, meaning devil chaser. A fact that sheds an interesting light to a this development: In recent years the French government declared a ban on the use of St. John’s wort in medical preparations, citing the possible negative interaction of the plant with prescription drugs as the official reason for this ban. Nevertheless, given the spiritual trajectory of the European countries one has to wonder… The Latin name, Hypericum, originated from the Greek name for the plant, hyperikon. Literally translated, the name is an amalgamation of the root words "hyper" (meaning over) and "eikon" (meaning image or apparition), referring to the plant’s supposed ability to ward off evil spirit. One only has to ask the question: Is this something the spiritual principalities behind modern governments would welcome? 

Early Christians also believed the plant had mystical properties. According to one legend, the greatest effect was obtained when the plant was harvested on Saint John’s Day (June 24), which is often the time of peak blooming. Another legend holds that the plant released its blood-red oil on August 29, the day of St. John’s beheading.

Bring the blessings of this plant to your family and to your home

In our household this plant has many uses: In the form of a beeswax salve made with the deep red oil, as a relief and treatment for wounds and skin irritation. As a massage oil to help with nerve pains and inflammation. And, yes, outside our entrance door and over our beds as a spiritual ally: In the “age of reason” the spiritual battle continues. A humble plant with a centuries old tradition may not seem like much of an armour in the eyes of the modern man, but we have seen this oil do wonders on the body. Why not leave open the possibility of the other side of the legend surrounding it being true?
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