Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sct. John's Wort /Perikon

Hypericum perforatum

The lovely yellow St. John's wort is flowering in the summer fields now among white, blue, pink and other yellow flowering plants. It's got many different names, Man's Blood, Man's Power, Christ's Blooddrop, Sharon's Rose, Aron's Beard, Devil's Escape ( Fuga daemonum), Earth Hop, Lady's Herb and Snaps Herb.

Hypericum Snaps (Perikon snaps)The flower buds are the base for the famous Hypericum snaps. The fresh unopened flower buds without leaves are the best. Cover them with some neutral alcohol and let the snaps draw for a few days before filtering. The finished extract is dark red, like the colour of a precious ruby, and it has a wonderful taste, (when thinned of course)! It can be stored, and the red colour changes into brown along the way, but the taste is still fine. Dried or freezed flower buds are also okay for making a good snaps. There are many ways to mix and draw herbs in alcohol: an ancient recipe from folklore shows that people mixed fresh ginger with St. John's flowers in their snaps.

Folk Medicine: 
St. John's wort is a classical medicinal plant. In ancient times herbalists wrote about its use as a sedative and a treatment for malaria as well as a balm for wounds, bums and insect bites. The strong red colour inside the plant was considered to be blood-cleansing and being able to heal inside wounds like in the kidneys. Exterior damages like rheumatism were cured with tinctures, plasters, ointments and oils.

There is some scientific evidence that St. John's wort is useful for treating mild depressions. Today St. John's wort is used in alternative medicine as a means against mild depressions, but since it is known to cause photo-sensitivity it is advisable to take care. For exterior use St. John's wort is stimulating and healing for the skin. A St. John's wort oil on the base of flowers and sesame seeds is softening and make the skind supple.
NB: Every alternative medicinal use of any herb needs caution.

Legend and Superstition.There were many stories attached to St. John's wort. According to legend the plant grew up, where the blood hit the ground from John the Baptist's decapitated head, but the common name comes from the fact that it traditionally flowers by and is harvested on St. John's day, 24. June. Actually it flowers all summer.
The Devil had a role too in the legend. He was terribly irritated over this herb, because it created such great medicinal cures for the human beings - and he tried to destroy the plant by pricking holes in it with his pitchfork, but he didn't succeed in killing it. Both the Devil and all kinds of evil spirits were dominating in society then. People thought that insanity were evil demons helding the body captured, and they tried to drive them out with St. John's wort, from this the name 'The Devil's Escape.' On Midsummer's Night people burnt St. John's wort in order to drive away evil spirits from the family place.
Healing could be achieved with St. John's wort. People had to dig it up or pluck the flowers on Midsummer's Night, (St. John's Night) and if they wore the herb, then they became invulnerable. Even soldiers were assisted. If a soldier smeared his flintlock inside with the plant juice he would never miss the target.
By the ancient Norse St. John's wort was dedicated to the God Balder, and people were sure that it had magical powers and aroused a mad desire of love. The herb was also said to cure impotence and from this came the name 'Man's Power'. One of the other names 'Earth Hop' indicates that it was used as a spice in beer brewing.

Plant-dyeing : yellow and green shades can be extracted from St. John's wort

photo grethe bachmann

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