Question: I’ve had Saint-John’s-wort in my flower bed for years. What can you tell me about it?
Answer: This yellow-flowered herb, of the genus Hypericum, was named for St. John the Baptist, whose feast day is June 24, when the plant is generally in bloom. It’s a spreading, woody perennial, often found in well-drained rock gardens, banks, and edgings. The scientific name comes from the Greek hyper, for “above,” and eikon, for “picture,” which refers to the ancient custom of hanging the herb over images to ward off evil. It was thought to protect against lightning as well, and thus was often hung in doorways, cottage windows, and even barns. An ointment made from the herb is sometimes used for skin ailments and burns. In some countries, including Germany, Saint-John’s-wort has long been considered a remedy for depression. Because of its tranquilizing effects, it is sometimes connected with treatments for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and anxiety. The herb can cause sensitivity to sunlight, however, so check with your health practitioner before embarking on a course of treatment.