Meet the Herbs

St. Johnswort. What’s in a name?

bright yellow fresh st johnswort flowers next to bottle of red st johnswort oil

Though probably best known today for its use in treating depression, St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) is a valuable first-aid herb for cuts, scrapes, and sore muscles, and is especially helpful for nerve pain and burns.

Did you ever wonder how this plant, so closely associated with Summer Solstice (June 20-22), witches, and magic, got its name?

St. Johnswort (SJW) was named for St. John the Baptist. St. John’s Feast Day is very near Summer Solstice on June 24.

SJW was hung on house and stall doors on St. John’s Feast Day to ward off evil spirits and to safeguard people and livestock from harm or illness, hinting at this herb’s history of association with protective magic.

SJW also has a long history of medical use. It is said the oil extract of the herb was used by the Knights Hospitaller, the Order of St. John, in the treatment of wounds after battles in the Crusades.

Herbalist Susun Weed famously quipped a better name would be St. Joanswort, as St. Joan of Arc knew a thing about burns.

Of many other folk names including Amber, Goat Weed, and Demon Chaser, my favorite is Solis Terrestis (Earthly Sun).

I’m not sure where the name Solis Terrestis originated but I love it. It may come from Hermeticism via Scott Cunningham’s ‘Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs’, where I first saw it.