St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

It is the leaves and flowers of St. John’s wort that are used.

The active ingredients are hypericin, flavonoids and essential oils.

St John's Wort

St. John’s wort has a pretty small yellow flower and if you pick the leaf and hold it up to the light you will be able to see tiny perforations in the leaf, hence its Latin name perforatum.

It has anti viral properties and is an “alterative” which means it has the ability to restore to normal, the way an organ or system in the body works.

It also has a long tradition of being used as a nervous system supporting and repairing herb and has liver tonic properties.

At college we were told and all the literature says that St. John’s wort must not be used where the patient is showing symptoms of clinical depression.

In Germany it has long been used as an antidepressant and a liver cleansing herb.

When we were doing the shingle beach walk, my husband, (and cameraman) Mike said to me jokingly, “is there anything to treat shingles?” well Ha Ha yes there is, one of the things I do with the plant is pick the flowers and put them in a jar with oil (any oil will do) for about six weeks in full sun light.  This will produce the beautiful Hypericum oil which is about the only thing I know to relieve the pain of shingles when rubbed on externally to them, at the same time as working against the herpes zoster virus which causes shingles.

I use the tincture in my clinic to put in to mixes to support the nervous system and the immune system. If I think there is a need for a direct anti viral in a mixture, then St. John’s wort and elderflower tinctures are top of my list.

Word of warning…….St John’s wort has a photosensitising action both if used externally and internally so if you are taking it, cover up in bright sunlight.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal health information

The Elder Tree (Latin Name ……..Sambucus Nigra)

Parts used…….flower/bark/berries

I am not too proud to admit I probably use this herb more than is decent.

Elderflower on a Martello Tower

That’s because it does soo many different things and there is nothing better to reach for than elderflower tincture from my shelves, from the start of the hayfever season to the end of the coughs and colds season which is pretty much all year around!

Elder flowers are one of those things you either love or hate the smell of. They have a slightly sickly sweet smell that many people find overpowering.

But ignore the smell because you are looking at a flower that has such an astonishing range of actions it sounds like a complete herbal pharmacopeia all on its own!

It is antiviral, immune system stimulating, anti-inflammatory, anticatarrhal, diaphoretic (makes you sweat) diuretic and other actions you can look up but if I add in here it will just sound like showing off.

It is my herb of choice above Echinacea, if I am treating coughs, colds and boosting the immune system.

Although there are several anticatarrhal herbs such as ground ivy, from my experience elderflower is positively the BEST.

At this time of year it goes in every hayfever and anti-allergy mix I make up.

Because it makes you sweat and has relaxing properties, I also put it into mixes for high blood pressure.

Here come the warning bells ringing again…please do not self medicate if you have high blood pressure or any medical condition see a professional.

I pick the flower every year and dry it to store for use as a tea if anyone is feeling they have a cold coming on. It is the herbal equivalent of Beecham’s powders.

The berries, I collect to either make elderflower jelly (you need extra pectin) or a syrup for coughs throughout the winter.

The syrup is dead easy to make.

Pick however many elderberries you want and then make about one inch layers of berries with half an inch of granulated sugar in a  clean and heat sterilised jam jar. You will need to keep topping the jar up as the berries crush down.

Leave this preferably somewhere very mildly warm for about a week and then strain of the gorgeous thick dark red syrup and store it in another clean and heat sterilised jam jar. This is a wonderful soothing cough mixture which should be rich in vitamin C, iron and Bioflavonoids.

In the video you see the elderflower in a hedgerow at the Long Man at Willingdon, but if you look along any hedgerow you will see an elderflower tree dotted in amongst the other bushes. Later in the year we will go back and film the berries and I will show you how to make the elderberry syrup.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information