Herb of the Month: St John's Wort!
I've always loved celebrating my birthday on one of the longest days of the year when the weather is (usually) just perfect and people are ready for a party! June 24th also holds special significance for many people around the world as the feast day of St. John the Baptist. The holiday is called San Juan Eguna in the Basque Country, where I once had the fortune of celebrating my birthday amidst the bonfires and fireworks marking the arrival of the summer solstice (our Gregorian calendar marks the Summer Solstice on June 21st, whereas the older Julian calendar marked the day on June 24th, thus the discrepancy). The summer solstice is celebrated as the shortest night of the year in the northern hemisphere and symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. The tradition of lighting bonfires and jumping over them the night before St. John's Day is meant to ward off and protect from evil spirits; it stems from the legend that the ashes of the fires cure skin diseases and that one should jump the fire a minimum of three times to ensure a good year to come. My favorite sentiment of these fiestas and rituals is that they still serve as a way of bringing the community together. -Dr. Nicole
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) often blooms around the summer solstice and can be identified by its bright yellow flowers and pinprick perforated-looking leaves that "let the light shine through." It has been used for centuries by herbalists for its mystical qualities: St. John's Wort ("SJW") was associated with fairies and witches (female herbalists?) and many people believed it served as protection from demons and evil spirits. From at least the sixteenth century to the present day, herbalists have used SJW preparations to treat wounds, alleviate depression and "melancholy," and soothe burns, sore muscles, and nerve pain. SJW has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral properties, and is such a powerful liver detoxifier that some pharmaceuticals are cleared from the liver before they have had a chance to work (it's important to check the contraindications of your Rx if you're adding SJW to your healthcare regimen). SJW is poppin' in our area right now; if you're not sure of the herbal ID, crush some of the bright yellow blooms between your fingers and if your fingers turn blood red, you've found Hypericum perforatum! We hope you have the opportunity to walk [respectfully and thoughtfully] through the foothills, gather this magical herbal ally, and make your own potent plant medicine! St. John's Wort Infused Oil To make the infused oil, pick the buds from the plant and pack them loosely in a half-pint canning jar, filling it almost to the top. Fill the jar with a carrier oil, stir well, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check the oil every day for several weeks to make sure all plant parts are covered with oil. Once the oil has turned to a brilliant dark red, strain off the flowers and store in a dark, cool location. Just look at the gorgeous color of this oil 😍 A bottle of St. John's Wort oil is an excellent addition to a natural first aid kit, helping soothe nerve pain and supporting recovery and healing from sunburn, burns, bruises, sprains, skin abrasions, sore muscles, and other injuries. Come on in out of the heat, enjoy a cold botanical soda or kombucha, and let us help you gather supplies for healthy outdoor opportunities! We have reef-safe sunscreen, herbal bug spray, everything you could possibly need for your natural first aid kit, and much more!