Few herbal supplements are better established or more widely used than the one with that odd, funny name: St. John's wort. (We'll get to the name in a minute.)
Botanically, St. John's wort is a yellow-flowering, rhizomatous, perennial herb indigenous to Europe. It features woody, branched roots which shoot runners in all directions; these runners produce stalks growing as high as three feet. The plant blossoms in small, bright yellow flowers about a quarter-inch across.
The leaves feature distinctive black dots -- often visible along the petal margins -- which are actually glands containing hypericin, one of the principal active constituents of St. John's wort. The whole above-ground part of the plant is harvested when the plant is just flowering, and both the flowers and leaves are used for medicinal purposes.
There are multiple species of St. John's wort around the world, but the most frequently occurring species is appropriately called common St. John's wort, and it refers to the herb traditionally used for emotional balance and mental state. It is the most plentiful species of St. John's wort in the world.
Technically, the plant is named hypericum perforatum, its genus and species. But St. John's wort is also known in places as goatweed, klamath weed, hypericum, rosin rose, milleperituis, and others.
So what about that unusual name ¦St. John's wort?
Several explanations have been advanced, but the most likely seems to relate to the timing of those small yellow flowers. The plant's flowers bloom each year in June right around the time of St. John's Day, June 24. That's the birthday of St. John the Baptist, so eventually the appearance of the little yellow flowers came to honor the holiday. The word wort was simply a Middle English term for any plant used for health.
- St. John's wort naturally contains flavonoids, which contribute to its positive effects.
- St. John's wort helps support a healthy emotional balance.
- St. John's wort supports a calm and relaxed mental state.
- St. John's wort helps maintain a positive mood.
- St. John's wort is one of the most popular and widely used herbs in Europe.
- As a supplement, St. John's wort supports a feeling of tranquility and promotes a healthy emotional outlook.
- Although St. John's wort is native to Europe, it grows rampantly in California and Southern Oregon.
The genus hypericum is derived from the Greek words hyper ( above ) and eikon ( picture ). This was a reference to the tradition of hanging plants over a picture in a house to ward off evil.
Warding off evil could certainly come in handy, but the real value placed on St. John's wort was based on other factors. It was used for centuries to help support a positive mood and mental health. That's what the ancient Greeks used it for, although early Native Americans used it as an antiseptic.
In recent history, St. John's wort has been used as an additive to herbal tea.
- St. John's wort has been used as an herbal nutraceutical for centuries both orally and topically and for its soothing properties.
- The part of St. John's wort most commonly used are the flowers, which are reduced to concentrated extracts that is, they are processed in a way that specific, non-essential substances are removed and the desired chemicals are left behind.
- The major constituents in St. John's wort include flavonoids, pseudohypericin, tannins, hyperforin, and hypericin. Hypericin extract contains at least ten constituents which may contribute to the physiological activity of the herb.
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