Properties and Benefits of St John’s Wort

St. John's wort

Perforate St John’s wort or simply St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a potent medicinal herb with excellent anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties. Not only does it exhibit effectiveness in the management of depression, but it also calms both anxiety episodes and panic attacks. Even more, St John’s wort can be used to reduce discomfort and pain associated with muscle inflammation and help treat colds, flu, sinusitis and other similar respiratory problems. Both extracts of the plant and preparations for herbal infusions are available for use.

Because it enhances the effects of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, caution is advised when looking to include the medicinal plant into your diet. If taken under the careful supervision of a doctor, which is strongly advised if you are already on medication for a mental disorder, St John’s wort should improve mental health significantly without the long list of side effects regular anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants have. However, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations closely to avoid side effects and potential medicine interactions.

St John's Wort benefits

Why is it called St John’s wort?

The plant flowers in late spring to early summer and was traditionally harvested on St John’s Day, which is June 24, hence its name. Other common names include Common Saint John’s wort and Perforate St John’s wort. Despite having quite potent medicinal properties, St John’s wort is an invasive species outside of Europe and is thus often labeled as a weed. It is also quite toxic for livestock.

What does St John’s wort look like?

The plant is basically a 1 meter tall green hedgerow with small, spear-like green leaves and tiny, bright yellow, five petaled flowers. Since words cannot depict an accurate image of the plant without causing boredom, the picture below should provide you with the best answer possible regarding what St John’s wort looks like.

What does St John’s wort taste like?

The dried herb used for making a therapeutic tea has an overall pleasant, but mild herbal taste. St John’s wort supplements however may not taste as good as they have a pregnant herbal, bitter flavor.

St. John's wort

What is St John’s wort good for?

Find out below what are the most notable health benefits of St John’s wort.

  • Benefits for depression management

According to researchers, extracts of the plant administered under the careful supervision of a doctor can mimic the beneficial effects of regular antidepressant medication, without the side effects. Apparently, St John’s wort contains hypericin, a compound that inhibits a class of enzymes known as monoamine oxidases which were linked to depression and anxiety). By inhibiting these enzymes, the hypericin in St John’s wort generates a sense of well-being and improves mood, helping improve depression symptoms such as mood swings, chronic fatigue and low energy levels.

  • Calms anxiety and helps reduce the severity of panic attacks

Moderate consumption of St John’s wort herbal infusions can do wonders for one’s nervous system health. The herb can even help calm anxiety and overcome panic attacks due to its direct effect on specific neurotransmitters. One cup of St John’s wort tea before going to bed should greatly improve symptoms and your overall state of health. However, if you are already prescribed anticoagulants or other medication for more serious health problems, please consult your doctor first. Also see my list of 9 surprisingly effective anti-anxiety herbs.

  • Natural nerve tonic

Hypericin, adhyperforin, hyperforin, pseudohypericin as well as potent flavonoids in St John’s wort act directly on the nervous system, regulating its activity. For instance, hypericin and hyperforin promote the release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that modulate signals between brain cells in view of an optimal brain activity. St John’s wort thus acts in the same way as traditional antidepressant medication by regulating nerve cell activity and neurotransmitter production, without the side effects of the latter.

  • Boasts natural antibiotic properties

According to research, St John’s wort boast quite impressive antibiotic properties. For instance, extracts of the plant or herbal infusions can help relieve nasal congestion, the fancy name for stuffy nose, catarrh (phlegm deposits resulting from airways inflammation) and other symptoms associated with common colds, flu, sinusitis, bronchitis and other viral and bacterial infections. One or two cups of St John’s wort a day can help immensely with the symptoms and promote recovery. Even more, hyperforin, an active compound in St John’s wort, was shown to be efficient against several strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that populates the human respiratory tract.

  • Excellent anti-inflammatory

St John’s wort was shown to possess great anti-inflammatory properties and thus help with a variety of mild medical conditions having inflammation as primary source. For instance, merely drinking St John’s wort tea can help treat or at least relieve muscle soreness, aches and pain.

Side effects and contraindications

Only moderate consumption of the herb is advised. When taken in great amounts or without medical supervision (for those under serious medical treatment), St John’s wort can result in serious side effects. Here is what happens when one takes too much St John’s wort:

  • Mild side effects: dry mouth, headaches, restlessness (due to active compounds in the herb causing cognitive alertness), confusion, dizziness and photosensitivity.
  • Severe side effects: allergy, uterine contractions leading to possible miscarriages, medicine interactions. It is recommended to avoid St John’s wort if you are taking anticoagulants such as warfarin, if you are already prescribed antidepressants (consult you doctor on the matter), cholesterol-lowering medicines (lovastatin), beta-blockers or hypertension medication, HIV medication or birth control pills. It has been shown that St John’s wort will interact with the above-mentioned medication and reduce absorption rates. For instance, taking St John’s wort while on contraceptives can alter their efficiency and result in an unplanned pregnancy.


St John’s herb is a potent medicinal herb with likely little side effects when consumed in moderation and according to the recommendations of a medical professional (strongly advised for those receiving treatment for mental health problems). While it is not recommended during pregnancy, as is the case with most herbs, it remains an alternative to regular antidepressants in cases when mental disorders manifest through mild symptoms, not to mention its effects are just as potent. St John’s wort owes its extraordinary health benefits to active components such as hypericin, hyperforin, pseudohypericin, tannins, phenolic acids (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, p-coumaric acid, etc.), flavonoids (quercitin, kaempferol, rutin, etc.) as well as volatile oils such as alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, humulene etc.