Common St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum

"Hypericum perforatum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in). It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, self.The plant is self-fertile."
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]



"Common side-effects are gastointestinal disturbances, allergic reactions & fatigue." "Use the plant with caution and do not prescribe it for patients with chronic depression[238]." "The plant was used to procure an abortion by some native North Americans, so it is best not used by pregnant women[257]. See also the notes above on toxicity[21, 222]." [PFAF]

"Topical medicines and non-psychotropic medicines that are excreted renally are not likely to interact with St John’s wort. Also, topical or homoeopathic preparations of St John’s wort are not likely to interact with prescribed medicines." [Barnes,2001]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"St. John's Wort has a long history of herbal use. It fell out of favour in the nineteenth century but recent research has brought it back to prominence as an extremely valuable remedy for nervous problems [254]. In clinical trials about 67% of patients with mild to moderate depression improved when taking this plant[254]." [PFAF]

Medicinal Usage

Approved by Commission E for:
• Anxiety
• Depressive moods
• Inflammation of the skin
• Blunt injuries
• Wounds and burns [PDR]

'Selected' Indications (St. John’s-Wort) —

Anxiety (2; APA; KOM; PH2; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Bacteria (1; CRC; FAD; MAB; PH2; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Bleeding (f; CRC; DEM; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Bruise (2; APA; BGB; FAD; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Burn (2; APA; KOM; MAD; PH2; SHT); [HMH Duke]
Cancer (1; CRC; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Cancer, breast (f; JLH); [HMH Duke]
Cancer, lymph (f; JLH); [HMH Duke]
Cancer, ovary (f; JLH); [HMH Duke]
Cancer, stomach (f; JLH); [HMH Duke]
Cancer, uterus (f; JLH); [HMH Duke]
Cholecystosis (f; APA; FAD; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Cough (f; APA; DEM; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Cramp (f; APA; HHB; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Depression (2; APA; BGB; CRC; FAD; KOM; PH2; SHT; WAM); [HMH Duke]

Dermatosis (2; APA; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Diarrhea (f; APA; FAD; MAB;PH2); [HMH Duke]
Dysentery (f; CRC; FAD; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Dysmenorrhea (f; APA CRC; MAD; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Dyspepsia (2; APA; KOM; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Enuresis (f; CRC; MAB; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Gastrosis (1; CAN; CRC; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Gout (f; MAD; PH2; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Hemorrhoid (1; APA; CRC; HHB; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Hepatosis (1; CAN; MAB; MAD; MAN); [HMH Duke]
Hysteria (f; BGB; CRC; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Infection (1; APA; CAN; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Inflammation (1; APA; CRC; FAD; PIP; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Insomnia (1; CAN; CRC; FAD; FNF; MAD; PH2); [HMH Duke]

Jaundice (f; CRC; MAB; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Mastosis (f; CRC; JLH; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Myalgia (2; KOM; PHR; PH2; SHT); [HMH Duke]
Nervousness (1; APA; CAN; CRC; FAD; MAD; PH2; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Neuralgia (1; BGB; CAN; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Neurosis (1; BGB; CAN; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Pain (1; CAN; CRC; EFS); [HMH Duke]
Rheumatism (1; MAB; PH2; PNC); SAD (2; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Sciatica (1; CAN; CRC; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Swelling (1; CAN; CEB; MAB; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Ulcer (1; CAN; CRC; MAB; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Viral Hepatitis (1; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Virus (2; APA; PH2; SKY; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Water Retention (f; BGB; DEP; EFS; MAD; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Worm (f; CEB; CRC; DEP; EFS; FAD); [HMH Duke]
Wound (2; APA; KOM; PH2; WAM). [HMH Duke]


"The plant contains many biologically active compounds including rutin, pectin, choline, sitosterol, hypericin and pseudohypericin[222PFAF]. These last two compounds have been shown to have potent anti-retroviral activity without serious side effects and they are being researched in the treatment of AIDS[222, 238]." [PFAF]

Essential oil

Source: Aerial parts

2-Methyloctane 37.1%
a-Pinene 31.4%
b-Pinene 10.7%

Sabinene 2.1%
b-Myrcene 1.7%

b-Caryophyllene 1.5%
Methyl nonane 1.2%

(Badoux, private communication, 2004) [Tisserand EOS]

  • Hazards: Skin sensitization if oxidized. [Tisserand EOS]
  • "Because of its high a-pinene content we recommend that oxidation of St. John’s Wort oil is avoided by storage in a dark, airtight container in a refrigerator. The addition of an antioxidant to preparations containing it is recommended." [Tisserand EOS]
  • Adverse skin reactions: Autoxidation products of a-pinene and can cause skin sensitization. [Tisserand EOS]
  • "The plant contains hypericin, which can be powerfully photoactive when ingested (Traynor et al 2005). However, this large molecule is not present in the distilled oil. Limited availability. Indian and Canadian oils may be different in composition." [Tisserand EOS]

"It was reported that foliar levels of hypericin are three to four times higher in the narrow level (in var. angustifolium) than in the round leaned (in var. parforatum). Hypericin levels also varied widely within plants and were found higher in the flowers, seed capsules, and upper leaves than in the stems or basal foliage." [Singh HNDP]

H. perforatum; "In general, the Pacific Northwest populations reported in this study have greater range of variation [the pseudohypericin to hypericin ratio] than the populations reported in previous studies. This finding might suggest that the differences in the Pacific Northwest could be due to genetic, environmental, or physiological differences, or a combination of all three." [Sirvent&Walker]

"Some individuals of the species Hypericum perforatum display exceedingly high concentrations of molybdenum." [Shkolnik TEP]


Wound healing
The clinical rationale for SJW treatment of wounds results from its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities, and from stimulation of fibroblast motility, collagen production, and keratinocyte differentiation. Oils and other formulations containing hyperforin and hypericin or their derivatives are appropriate for application on scratches, abrasions, burns, and ulcers. Although blunt traumata like contusions and myalgia are mentioned as traditional indications [2], no studies have been performed in these indications with topical formulations, but some data is available for burns, decubitus, and surgical wounds.[PlantMed]

Activities (St. John’s-Wort)

Analgesic (1; CAN; CRC; EFS) [HMH Duke]
Anticancer (1; MAB); [HMH Duke]
Antibacterial (1; FAD; MAB; PH2; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Antidepressant (2; APA; BGB; CRC; PH2; SHT; WAM); [HMH Duke]
Antidote (1; FNF; MAD); [HMH Duke]
Antiinflammatory (1; APA; FAD; PIP; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Antineuralgic (f; BGB); [HMH Duke]
Antiretroviral (1; APA; FAD); [HMH Duke]
Antiseptic (1; HHB; PH2); [HMH Duke]

Antiviral (2; APA; PH2; SKY; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Anxiolytic (2; PH2; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Astringent (f; CRC; EFS; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Cholagogue (f; CRC; EFS); [HMH Duke]
Digestive (f; CRC; EFS); [HMH Duke]
Diuretic (f; BGB; DEP; EFS; VVG); [HMH Duke]
Dopaminergic (1; MAB; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Emmenagogue (f; DEM;MAD); [HMH Duke]
Expectorant (f; CRC; EFS); [HMH Duke]

MAOI (1; KOM; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Nervine (1; EFS; MAB; WAM); [HMH Duke]
Sedative (1; CAN; FAD; MAD; PH2); [HMH Duke]
SSRI (1; MAB; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
Tonic (1; CAN; CRC; WAM); [HMH Duke]
Tranquilizer (1; CAN; CRC; PNC); [HMH Duke]
Vermifuge (f; CEB; CRC; DEP; EFS); [HMH Duke]
Vulnerary (1; APA; MAB; WAM).[HMH Duke]

"The exact constituents responsible for the effects of Hypericum remain unclear. The absorption of hyperforin is relatively slow with mean peak plasma concentrations of about 150 ng/mL occurring within 31 /2 hours after ingestion.21,24 In a study of 12 healthy male volunteers ingesting a single dose of 1,800 mg dried hypericum extract containing 1.5 mg hypericin, the median peak concentration of hypericin was approximately 14 ng/mL and occurred about 21 /2 hours after the ingestion.25 The equivalent dose of pseudohypericin in the 1,800 mg dose of hypericum extract was about 3.2 mg, and the median peak pseudohypericin concentration of 30.6 ng/mL occurred approximately 1/2 hour after ingestion. The estimated bioavailability of hypericin and pseudohypericin in hypericum extract is approximately 15 – 20%.26" [TNS]

"The elimination of both hypericin and hyperforin is relatively slow. In a study of 13 healthy volunteers administered 0.75 mg hypericin and about 1.6 mg pseudohypericin, the median elimination half - lives were approximately 43 hours and 25 hours, respectively.27 After a single therapeutic dose of hypericin, pseudohypericin, and hyperforin, the mean elimination half - lives in 18 healthy volunteers were 18.71 hours, 17.19 hours, and 17.47 hours, respectively.28" [TNS]


"Easily grown in any reasonably good well-drained but moisture retentive soil[1]. Succeeds in dry soils[238]. Plants grow well in sun or semi-shade but they flower better when in a sunny position[200]. St. John's wort is often found as a weed in the garden[1]. It grows well in the summer meadow and is a useful plant for attracting insects[24]. The whole plant, especially when in bloom, gives off a most unpleasant smell when handled[245]. Hypericum perforatum is apparently an allotetraploid that would appear to have arisen from a cross between two diploid taxa, viz. H. maculatum subsp. maculatum (Europe to western Siberia) and H. attenuatum (western Siberia to China)[266]." [PFAF]

"The harvested material should be dried rapidly but carefully to preserve the content of the secretory glands. The drying temperature should not exceed 30-40°C. The key constituents of SJW (see Sect. 2.2.4) are most concentrated in the buds, flowers, and distal leaves, so the pharmaceutical and therapeutic quality of the extracts is highly dependent on the quality of the original herbal material. " [Schulz RP] Only the flower buds, flowers, and the upper part of the stem with branches and leaves have a high content of anthrones. Therefore, when harvesting, the lack of fruits, seeds, and woody stems (lower part) should be taken into account to ensure the pharmaceutical quality (min. 0.04 % hypericin) of the raw material used for extraction. [Grosso HMD]


"Seed - sow in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn or in the spring. It normally germinates in 1 - 3 months at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Division in spring or autumn[111, 238]. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring." [PFAF]

HYPERICUM - St. John's Wort

Annual to shrub, glabrous.
Leaf: sessile
Inflorescence: generally terminal cymes, bracted.
Flower: sepals [4]5; petals [4]5, deciduous or persistent, generally ± yellow; anthers occasionally black-dotted; ovary chambers 1 or 3(5), placentas 3(5), axile or parietal, projecting into chamber.
± 450 species: worldwide. (Greek name) [Robson 2002 Bull Nat Hist Mus London, Bot 32:61–123][Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Hypericum anagalloides - Bog St. John's-wort [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  2. Hypericum androsaemum - tutsan [E-flora]
  3. Hypericum majus - large Canadian St. John's-wort [E-flora]
  4. Hypericum perforatum - common St. John's-wort [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  5. Hypericum scouleri - Western St. John's-wort
H.androsaemum; "Moist meadows, ditches and thickets in the lowland zone; rare in SW BC, known only from the lower Fraser Valley; introduced from Europe." [IFBC-E-flora] H.scouleri "Moist to wet streamsides, estuaries, marshes and open slopes in all zones except the alpine and steppe zones; infrequent in S BC; S to WY, CA and MX." [IFBC-E-flora]
H. anagalloides; "Moist to wet bogs, ditches and lawns in the lowland zone; frequent in SW BC; S to MT, CA and MX." [IFBC-E-flora] H.majus "Moist to wet waste places, vernal pools, gravelly shorelines and tidal shores in the lowland zone; rare in SW and SC BC; E to NF and S to DE, PA, NE, CO and WA." [IFBC-E-flora]

Hypericum androsaemum - Tutsan

"Hypericum androsaemum is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects, self.The plant is self-fertile."
"Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure."[PFAF-2]

"(Hypericum androsaemum) The black berries are often viewed with suspicion by country people. In the Hebrides, for example, they say that if you eat them, you will go mad (Murdoch McNeill)....Actually, the leaves do have antiseptic properties, and they were certainly used to cover open flesh wounds before bandaging became common (Genders. 1971)." Gerard "...recommended it for burns and there are other ailments that have been treated externally by either the leaves or roots in some kind of ointment."
"When dried, the leaves have a very sweet smell, likened to ambergris....Incidentally, you can put them amongst clothes, too, to keep moths away (Genders. 1976)." [DPL Watts]

External Usage

Leaves - Ointment made with lard. Applied to cuts, wounds and carbuncles. Leaves are antiseptic. Used to bandage wounds. Recommended for many external applications including burns and chilblains. [DPL Watts] The leaves are diuretic, stomachic and vulnerary[61, 186]. [PFAF-2]
Root - The boiled root can also be used in a similar manner to the leaves.[DPL Watts]
Seed - Gerard recommended two drams of the powdered seed drunk to purge cholericke excrements as a remedy for sciatica. Water was to be drunk for a day or two following treatment.[DPL Watts]
Black Berries - Apparently if you eat them you will go mad. As it resembles blood, according to the doctrine of signatures it is applied to bleeding wounds.[DPL Watts]

Other Uses

  • Groundcover: "A good ground cover plant[208]. Although it is clump forming rather than spreading it increases freely by self-sowing[186, 200]. Plants are best spaced about 90cm apart each way[208]." [PFAF-2]
Uses of Various Species
St John’s-wort - H. perforatum, H. tetrapterum, H. humifusum, H. pulchrum and H. elodes.[MPFT]
All five species have been used for similar purposes in Britain.

"Most applications have arisen from its astringency and power to staunch bleeding. H. pulchrum has also shared with H. humifusum a role in curing stomach upsets. An infusion of ‘St John’s-wort’ (species unstated) has also served as an old rustic remedy, in an unidentified part of England, for enuresis in children or the aged.12 Hypericum pulchrum has been widely in use for low spirits, nervousness and as a general tonic. St John’s-wort used for healing fractures and sprains—in the manner of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and royal fern (Osmunda regalis); Hypericum perforatum has been used for those in Somerset, H. pulchrum in the Highlands and, mixed with goldenrod and heath speedwell, on Skye." "When cut and bruised, a resin-like substance can be extracted and has been applied as a protective coating to various afflictions such as burns, and bed sores. Used for warts. An infusion for coughs or catarrh and to make hair grow."
"Hypericum elodes was employed as a cure for diarrhoea. Boiled in milk as a highly effective astringent for fluxes in general.27 Hypericum elodes has been specifically mentioned for diarrhoea in cows. Two further, but vague uses of St John’s-wort in the collective sense have been to cure ‘gravel’ andjaundice."[MPFT]

Hypericum Sp.

"In contrast to tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum), which is sufficiently different in appearance to have probably always enjoyed a place of its own in folk medicine, the five other species of the genus Hypericum that have been identified botanically as in use in Britain or Ireland are on record for such broadly similar purposes as to suggest that no distinction has been made between them. They are therefore treated here as if they constituted a single entity. It is nevertheless worth noting that whereas ‘St John’s-wort’ over much of lowland England is H. perforatum, in the regions to the north and west that name is borne largely or wholly by its more slender relation, H. pulchrum. " [MPFT]


  • [E-flora] - Hypericum perforatum -, Accessed November 6, 2016
  • Adams et al., 2009 - Medicinal herbs for the treatment of rheumatic disorders—A survey of European herbals from the 16th and 17th century, Michael Adams, Caroline Berset, Michael Kessler, Matthias Hamburger, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 121 (2009) 343–359
  • Barnes,2001 - St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum L.): a review of its chemistry, pharmacology and clinical properties, Joanne Barnes, Linda A. Anderson and J. David Phillipson, JPP 2001, 53: 583–600
  • [Antifungal] Antifungal Plants of Iran: An Insight into Ecology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology, Mehdi Razzaghi-Abyaneh, Masoomeh Shams-Ghahfarokhi and Mahendra Rai, Antifungal Metabolites from Plants, 2013
  • [Jepson] Robert E. Preston & Jennifer Talbot, 2012. Hypericum, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Mar 8 2014
  • [PFAF] Accessed March 25, 2015
  • [PlantMed] Topical Application of St. Johnʼs Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Ute Wölfle, Günter Seelinger, Christoph M. Schempp, Planta Med 2014; 80(02/03): 109-120
  • Sirvent&Walker - VARIATION IN HYPERICINS FROM WILD POPULATIONS OF HYPERICUM PERFORATUM L. IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST THE U.S.A., Tara M. Sirvent, Loren Walker, Nan Vance, and Donna M. Gibson, Economic Botany 56(1) pp. 41-48. 2002

Page last modified on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 1:29 PM