Herbal Grimoire: St. John’s Wort

Image source: botanical.com

*Please note: this is not a monograph, and I am not an herbalist. This is an excerpt from my herbal grimoire, and the writings of a Witch. It is intended to supplement your own research and studies.*

Name

Who is Saint John?

St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness by Anton Raphael Mengs

Saint John, also know as John the Baptist, was a Jewish preacher in the 1st century AD. Christian scholars believe he baptized Jesus, and the Gospels portray him as a precursor or forerunner to Jesus. According to the New Testament, he was beheaded by Herod Antipas sometime between AD 28 and 36 for rebuking Herod for divorcing his wife and unlawfully marrying the wife of his brother.

Saint’ John’s Wort is named after this religious figure because the flowers usually bloom on or around June 24th, which is believed to be Saint John’s birthday. The crimson liquid exuded by the plant is believed to be a symbol of the blood spilled from his beheading, and the five yellow petals resemble a saintly halo.

Scientific name: Hypericum perforatum

Hypericum comes from the Greek word hyperikon, which means “over an apparition”, referring to the belief that this herb warded off evil spirits. Perforatum refers to the pinhole perforations found in the leaves and petals.

Identification

Image source: Wikipedia

“…the leaves bear pellucid, transparent dots along their green surfaces…” – Michael Moore

An herbaceous perennial found in uncultivated ground, woods, hedges, roadsides, and meadows. May be found blooming throughout summer. The flowers are bright yellow, an indication of the healthy virtues of this herb. If you crush the flowers, they exude a crimson-purple liquid. The leaves have tiny pinhole perforations, which you can see if you hold one up to the light.

Remedial Qualities

Energy and flavors: cool, bitter

Systems affected: liver, nervous system

Properties: sedative, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antidepressant

Saint John’s Wort is used to treat pains and diseases of the nervous system, and can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is one of the best herbal therapies for those experiencing depression and numbing frustration, as a result of feeling “stuck in a rut.” Topically it works well as an all-purpose ache and pain reliever.

Magickal Qualities

Gender: masculine

Planet: Sun

Element: fire

Powers: health, protection, strength

Saint John’s Wort is considered an Herbe of Protection, which history dates back to the early Greeks. It may be tossed in the hearth or fireplace to bring protection to the home (it would also be an excellent addition to an incense blend created for use in protection magick). It may also be placed in a jar and hung by a window or doorway to prevent malevolent spirits from entering the home. It may be used as an amulet to be worn on the body for protection and/or good health – also to attract love, and cure melancholy. It is associated with the element of fire, and may be used in magickal works to commune with fire spirits. Gather and dry the herb over a midsummer bonfire as part of your seasonal celebrations.

Preparations

“A tincture of the flowers in spirit of wine, is commended against melancholy and madness.” – Culpeper

For depression: combine equal parts powders of St. John’s Wort, red rose petals, and lemon balm. Take two “00” size gelatin capsules every two hours for no more then three days in succession, tapering off to three times daily as symptoms subside.

To make a tincture: Gather the flowering tops, chop these up and fill a glass jar with as much herb as possible. Cover herb with 100 proof vodka (fill jar til almost overflowing). Screw on the cap, store in a cool, dark place (such as a kitchen cabinet). Strain after six weeks. Take 20-30 drops, up to three times per day.

To make an oil: Gather flowering tips, set them loosely in an open paper bag for a day, then chop them well and pack them into a jar with olive oil. Store away from sunlight in a warm place for 2-3 weeks. Strain well, squeezing with a cloth to extract as much oil as possible.

To make a salve: melt one cup of infused oil with one ounce of beeswax in a double boiler. Pour into jars, allow to cool and cap. Combines well with Arnica and Poplar Bud oils as an all-purpose ache and pain reliever.

Additional notes:

Do not ingest if you gather this herb from roadsides. Instead, you may dry it, to be used in incense, amulets, witch bottles, etc.

Infused oil for cold sores: apply one drop to affected area to prevent cold sores from developing, or to manage nerve pain and speed recovery.

Anointing oil for Protection (infused oil) – in my experience, when anointing yourself with St. John’s Wort oil, it will bring about protection in unexpected ways (as is often the case with magickal workings), but in exactly the way you need it. St. John’s Wort is an herb of blessing and healing, and when worked with respectfully, will bring profound transformation when it comes to inner strength and boundaries.

You may also purchase St. John’s wort salve and anointing oil from my shop.

St. Johns’ Wort Salve

Sources

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1993.

Beyerl, Paul. The Master Book of Herbalism. Blaine: Phoenix Publishing, 1984.

Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1990.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist

https://www.herballegacy.com/Nelson_History.html

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/sajohn06.html

Green Blessings,

S.

Witch’s Brew: Bath Soak and Herbal Wash

Here is a simple blend of some of my favorite herbs for a bath soak, herb wash, or floor wash. Bathing (including showers) when done with intention, can be a ritual in itself – for purification, grounding, protection, meditation, and dream work, to name a few. Adding herbs to your bathing experience is a wonderful way to set this intention. Here’s an overview of the herbs included in this blend:

Mugwort – lucid dreams, psychic awareness, inner vision, protection 

Lavender – inner calm, peaceful mind, increased awareness, stability, restful sleep

Rosemary – memory, clarity of mind, strength, protection

Juniper berries – good health and energy, purification, protection

Rose petals – love, romance, opens the heart chakra

IMG_20180318_155851_479

It smells amazing.

For this particular blend, I find the best times to use it are just before going to bed, or as preparation for meditation and ritual work. Obviously any time that suits you is great. I have found it to be good for dream work, psychic vision, and grounding. If you are feeling particularly toxic by the end of the day, this is a good choice for “cleaning the day off”! And I recommend trying it at least once prior to meditation, see how it affects your experience.

Here is the recipe and instructions:

Recipe:

1/2 C Mugwort
1/2 C Lavender
1/2 C Rosemary
1/4 C Juniper Berries
1/4 C Rose Petals

Instructions:

If you have a mortar and pestle, grind the herbs a bit to release more of their aroma and oils. If not, I recommend at least crushing the juniper berries with the flat side of a knife (similar to crushing garlic). Combine your herbs in a bowl and mix together well. Store in a jar until ready to use – it is enough for 2 baths or one very potent bath!

When you are ready to use your Witch’s Brew, get a large pot of water boiling. As the water heats, prep your blend. You’ll want a large muslin drawstring bag, cheesecloth, or a clean dish towel. Fill the muslin bag with at least 1 cup of the blend, or, if using cheesecloth or dish towel, place it in the center of the cloth and pull up the corners and sides – use string or a rubber band to close. Once your water is boiling, take it off the heat, add your sachet to the water, and cover with a lid. Let steep 10 min. Get your bath water water running, and, once the brew is done steeping, add it along with the sachet to your bath. For extra detoxification, add 4 cups of Epsom salts to your bath as well.

For an herb wash (if you don’t have a bath tub):

Follow the process above, bring the pot of infused water with you to the shower with a bowl or large cup. Take your shower (I recommend exfoliating too) and at the end rinse your body (and hair!) with the brew using your cup or bowl.

For a floor wash: this is a good one for cleaning your house for protection, love, and good energy.

Follow the steeping process above, add brew to your mop water along with your usual cleaner and 1 cup of sea salt.

Spring Salad & The Arte of the Salat

Spring is here! Everything is lush and green, the air is crisp and ambrosial with the scent of lilacs and fresh spring rains. This is the time of year when we awaken from our sluggish winter rest, open the windows, sweep the floors, and make ourselves a spring salad. Tender lettuces, crunchy light vegetables, and a scattering of minced herbs and edible weeds, coated in oil and vinegar, and adorned with edible flowers. The Spring Salad is an excellent way to not only provide your body with a cleansing tonic, but to also hone your kitchen witchery skills, which includes using seasonal ingredients in an intuitive alchemy of sorts, combined with a celebration of the senses. Food should not only taste good, but in order to be true medicine for the soul, it should also be a total sensory experience. This salad is formulated to taste good, but also keeps in mind the scent of the ingredients, texture as you bite into it, and visual delight of glowing greens and bright, colorful flowers and vegetables. Not to mention the sensory experience of gathering your ingredients!

Let’s go to the garden with our shears and a large bowl – first we head to the box garden, filled with sprouting lettuces. The lettuces will constitute the majority of the salad, so we really want to the fill the bowl with them. Clip them off by the handful and toss them in! In the next box over, we can pull a few radishes – this will provide a light, crunchy addition. After that, we head to the herb garden, just outside the kitchen. Pots of all shapes and sizes, filled with a variety of vibrant herbs. Pick your favorite ones – chives are always good, and I think I’ll add a bit of mint, oregano, and lemon balm too. For the herbs we just need a large handful. Finally, it’s time to forage for some wild greens and flowers to add to our salad. The bright pops of yellow are easy to spot, scattered across the yard – dandelion! We can get a handful of dandelion flowers and leaves. Now lets squint our eyes and look closer in the shady spots around the trees – there they are! Wild violets – lets just get a few flowers and leaves from those as well. Ah, and I see one more wild edible growing in the dappled shade – perhaps my favorite of all – chickweed! Let’s clip away a large handful of that – it’s a fantastic addition to sandwiches as well. Oh my goodness, just look at this abundance of greens and flowers. The bees are buzzing, the sun is shining – it’s time to head back in and make our salad.

This Spring Salad “recipe” is inspired by a medieval salad recipe taken from Forme of Curye, written ab. 1390 A.D. :

Original Recipe:

Salat

Take parsel, sawge, garlec, chybollus, oynons, lek, borage, myntes, porrettes, fenels and towne cressis rewe rosmarye, purslary, lauen and waische hem clene pyke hem  pluk hem small wiþ þyne hond and mynge hem wel wiþ rawe oyle. lay on vyneger and salt and surve hem forth.

Translation:

Salad

Take parsley, sage, garlic, chives, onions, leek, borage, mint, scallion, fennel and nasturtium, rue, rosemary, purslane, rinse and wash them clean pick them pluck them small with thine hand and mingle them well with raw oil lay on vinegar and salt and serve them forth.

Talk about flavors! While this recipe is made primarily of herbs (something I would like to try recreating some day, I’m sure it has a much more medicinal flavor), I formulated this recipe to be made primarily with lettuces, and then finely chopped herbs intermingled. The thing with herbs is that they contain much higher amounts of essential oils (this is also why they smell so good when you chop them) – so they make for stronger flavors which I feel would overpower the taste senses. Instead, I prefer to have the herbs and wild greens provide a subtler yet complex flavor profile, and the majority of the salad consist of lush, fresh garden lettuces.

For intuitive cooking, I like to give ratios rather than measurements – and of course you can change them up as you see fit!

Spring Salad (makes one generous serving):

Lettuce greens – this should be the majority of the salad, let’s say 3/4 of the bowl

Crunchy vegetable, thinly sliced – small handful

Suggestions:

  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Jicama
  • Carrot
  • Fennel
  • Apple (not a vegetable but is quite delicious in this salad!)

Herbs, minced – generous handful

Suggestions:

  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon balm
  • Sage

Wild greens and flowers, minced (can leave flowers whole to sprinkle on top) – one handful

Suggestions (always use at least three sources to ID wild edibles):

  • Dandelion
  • Violets
  • Plantain
  • Cleavers
  • Chickweed
  • Red clover
  • Borage
  • Nasturtium
  • Purslane
  • Miners lettuce

For the salad dressing:

Garlic-infused olive oil —

  1. Peel 4-5 garlic cloves, smash each clove with the broad side of your kitchen knife
  2. Add these to a 16 oz glass bottle or jar
  3. Fill bottle/jar with good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  4. Store in a cool dark cupboard

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Combine olive oil and vinegar (ratio of oil to vinegar should be about 3:1) and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk with a fork until dressing turns opaque (this is when it has emulsified).

Okay, ingredients are prepared, let’s make this salad!

  1. Add thinly sliced crunchy vegetable, and minced herbs and wild greens to the bowl of lettuce.
  2. Lightly drizzle dressing, and toss with your hands until everything is well combined and lightly coated with oil. Taste a piece of lettuce, add more salt and pepper or dressing as needed. If the greens become limp, it’s because you’ve added too much dressing – add a bit more lettuce to lighten it up. As long as you drizzle and mix a bit at time, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. Place edible flowers artfully on top, squeeze of bit of lemon juice over everything, and voila! Spring salad is done. Bon appetit.

Did you try this recipe? Or do you have your own favorite salad recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Blessed be,

S.

Witch’s Brew: Nourishing Herbal Infusions

Nettle grows abundantly and is one of the most nourishing plants on the planet.
Image source: theherbalacademy.com

It is evening – the sun has set, dinner is done, and the table has been cleared. It’s time to do some clean-up in the kitchen, and prepare my nettle infusion for the next day.

First, I fill the kettle with fresh, cold water, and set it to high heat on the hearth. As the water heats, I grab a 1-quart mason jar from the cupboard, and my stash of dried nettle. Using a scale, I measure out one ounce of the nettle and pour it into the jar – I also add a pinch of dried mint from the garden. By the time I am done with this, steam is billowing from the kettle and it is starting to whistle. I grab the kettle from the hearth, and pour the bubbling water over the herbs, giving it a good stir to make sure that the herbs are fully immersed. Steam floats up and I revel in the earthy forest fragrance of wild nettle and mint.

Nettle is a somewhat unassuming plant in appearance; lush, green and leafy. But you will immediately recognize it if it makes contact with your skin, as it has nearly invisible spines that will deliver a searing sting! This plant likes a bit of cool shade and moisture, and can be found somewhat easily in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It is also one of the most nourishing plants on the planet. While it must be handled with care, nettle is most generous with its nutrients and grows in abundance, happy to heal those who seek it out. Once you begin consuming nettle, whether eaten as a cooked food or imbibed as a nourishing infusion, you will quickly become aware of its zippy and generous personality. Nettle delivers a boost of fresh energy and vibrancy, and will give you a rosy glow and a pep in your step! The infusion is a dark green, almost black liquid, loaded with healing chlorophyll, and it makes my Green Witch heart happy.

Once I have filled the jar up with boiling water, I cap it and place it on the windowsill to infuse overnight. In the morning I will strain it, and chill it in the fridge, before sipping on it throughout the day. I feel immense gratitude and respect for this potent plant spirit.

Nettle and red clover infusions.

I first learned about nourishing infusions several years ago from the book Healing Wise by Susun Weed, and have been consuming them on a regular basis ever since. Nourishing infusions are a true Witch’s brew – healing, simple, effective, and a beautiful way to connect with plant spirits. They are also inexpensive – in fact, several of these plants can be wild harvested or grown in a garden, depending on where you are located.

An herbal infusion is different from a tea – in Healing Wise, Susun Weed describes it as “the most medicinally potent water-based herbal preparation.” Here is the standard preparation:

  1. Set a kettle of water to boil.
  2. Measure out one ounce of your dried herb.
  3. Put herb in a quart jar – canning jars are best, make sure it is heat-proof glass.
  4. Pour boiling water over the herb to the top of the jar – you may want to give it a stir to make sure the herb is fully saturated.
  5. Cap the jar and let it sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours (I like to make mine before bed and let it infuse overnight).
  6. Strain out the herb, pour liquid back into jar, and drink throughout the day. You’ll want to drink at least two cups per day, although I like to have the whole quart. If you don’t finish the quart in a day, be sure to refrigerate it at night. I always give the last few sips to my house plants. 🙂

Here are the herbs Susun Weed recommends for use on a regular basis – generally speaking, you will want to infuse these individually, and rotate as you go (eg. nettle infusion on monday, oatstraw infusion on tuesday, red clover infusion on wednesday, etc):

Nettle – This zippy plant is a true powerhouse of nourishment! It is a kidney/adrenal ally, digestive restorative, respiratory strengthener, hair and skin nourisher. Contains proteins, macro and trace minerals, and nearly all the vitamins we need. With regular consumption, this infusion will give you a significant boost of energy. If you are harvesting these in the wild, be sure to wear thick gloves at all times while handling them, until they have dried.

Oatstraw – Cooling and soothing, strengthens the nervous system and endocrine system, eases muscle spasms and inflammation, restores sexual flow. Contains proteins, macro and trace minerals, and high amounts of B vitamins.

Red Clover – anti-cancer, aids in fertility, nourishes hormones, nourishes skin, helper to the lymphatic system, boosts immune system. High in proteins, macro and trace minerals, vitamins, and is an excellent source of phytosterols.

Comfrey – AKA “Bone Knit”, strengthens and heals bones, skin, and other tissues, improves digestion and respiratory health. Rich in proteins, and a great source of folic acid, vitamins, minerals and trace minerals.

Linden – Anti-inflammatory, aids digestion, cold and flu preventative, relaxing nervine, benefits the heart. Rich in antioxidants, tastes like sunshine. 🙂

Speaking of taste, if you find the flavor of any of these herbs challenging, try adding a pinch of mint. I really enjoy adding a bag of peppermint tea to the nettle infusion, and a wedge of lemon (after straining) to the red clover infusion.

Having a constant rotation of these nourishing infusions as part of your daily nutrition will build a strong foundation for your health. If you are interested in learning about herbal allies, and getting to know the personality of the plants, pick one of the herbs listed above and try drinking a quart of it every day for a full week- you will get to know the plant very well! In a way, you will embody the plant, and get a good sense of its personality and healing qualities.

To learn more about working with herbs, I can’t recommend Susun Weed’s book, Healing Wise, enough. It is a go-to reference and constant guide for me in healing with plants.

Healing Wise by Susun Weed – I consider this an indispensable resource in my Green Witch library.

As mentioned above, you may be able to harvest some of these herbs in the wild or grow them in your garden. This is ideal, just be sure to do your research on foraging and drying first! You can also purchase them online from Mountain Rose Herbs or Frontier Co-op.

In summary:

  • Nourishing infusions are a potent daily tonic and healing way to connect with plants.
  • The five herbs used (individually) in nourishing infusions are: nettle, oatstraw, red clover, comfrey, and linden.
  • The general ratio for making nourishing infusions is one ounce herb to one quart water, and should be infused for at least 4 hrs.
  • Nourishing infusions are simple, safe and affordable.
  • To learn more, read Healing Wise by Susun Weed.
  • Herbs for nourishing infusions may be grown or wildcrafted, but do your research first.
  • Nourishing infusions can be part of a daily practice for the Green Witch and/or Kitchen Witch.

Blessed Be,

S.