Hypericum perforatum

St. John’s wort, St. John’s wort,
My envy whosoever has thee,
I will pluck thee with my right hand,
I will preserve thee with my left hand,
Whoso findeth thee in the cattlefold,
Shall never be without kine.
[Old Gaelic incantation]
Hypericum perforatum. St John’s wort. N.O. Guttiferae.
CLASSIFICATION Cosmopolitan but centred in the tropics, the Guttiferae is a large family of trees and shrubs, many of which produce timber, drugs, dyes and fruits. Containing about 40 genera and some 1,000 species, the family is almost worldwide in distribution, although only Hypericum [widespread] and Triadenum [Asia and North America] occur outside the tropics. Most members have oil glands which sometimes show up as dots on the simple, entire and opposite leaves; glandular secretions consist of essential oils and fats, anthocyanins and resins. The Guttiferae is subdivided into the following subfamilies: [1] Kielmeyeroideae; [2] Hypericoideae; [3] Calophylloideae; [4] Moronobeoideae; [5] Clusioideae, containing two tribes – Clusieae and Garcinieae. Hypericum used to be placed in another family [Hypericaceae], but is nowadays included with the Guttiferae. Gambogia is the only other member of this family used in homoeopathy.
ECONOMIC USES The Guttiferae have been used as a source of hard and/or durable wood [e.g. Mesua ferrea, Ceylon Iron Wood]; easily worked wood; drugs or dyes from bark; gums, pigments and resins from stems [including species of Garcinia, yielding gamboge, a bright yellow pigments used in water paints or in spirit varnishes for painting on metal]; drugs from leaves [species of Hypericum and Harungana]; drugs and cosmetics from flowers [those of Mesua ferrea are used in perfumery, and often stuffed into pillows and cushions for bridal beds in the Orient]; edible fruits [including Garcinia mangostana – the Mangosteen, a small tree bearing purplish fruits with a thick rind – and Mammea americana – the Mammee Apple or St Domingo Apricot, bearing orange-red fruits]; fats and oils from seeds.
GENUS Distributed throughout temperate and mountainous tropical regions, Hypericum is a large genus of about 370 species of herbs, shrubs and trees with gland-dotted leaves and flowers that typically bear 5 sepals, 5 yellow petals and numerous stamens collected into 5 bundles. Many species are grown ornamentally and some have medicinal properties.

Hypericum perforatum

 SPECIES Hypericum perforatum is an erect, perennial herb with small yellow flowers and leaves that appear peppered with small holes when held up to the light. It is native to Europe, but is naturalized in North America and Australia. It prefers sunlight and dry, sandy or gravely soils, growing freely in uncultivated ground, woods, hedges, roadsides, and meadows. The plant spreads vigorously from short runners and produces as many as 30,000 seeds per plant in a single season. The seeds are easily carried by the wind, and have been seen growing in the steeples of old churches.
NAME Hypericum is a Greek name of obscure meaning. Some authorities derive the word from Gr hyper, above, and eikon, picture, in allusion to the belief that evil spirits would be warded off when the plant was hung above pictures. Others derive it from Gr hyper, over, and ereike, heath, possibly in reference to the natural habitat of some species. The common name, St John’s wort, refers to John the Baptist and carries several possible explanations drawn from folklore and legend. First, the plant flowers around the 24th of June, the date that St John the Baptist was beheaded. Because the yellow petals bleed red when crushed, they are said to represent his bloodshed, and the translucent spots on the leaves represent the tears shed over his death. Additionally, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem used it to treat wounds during the Crusades, and in medieval times people believed that a sprig of St John’s wort placed under the pillow on St John’s Eve, would cause the Saint to appear in a dream, give his blessing, and prevent one from dying during the following year. The specific name perforatum refers to the small holes the leaves appear to have, which either came to symbolize the wounds of the martyrs or which, according to legend, were the work of the Devil who perforated the leaves of St John’s wort because he fretted about its healing power.
MEDICINE Having aromatic, astringent, resolvent, expectorant and nervine properties, Hypericum has been used over the last 2000 years in both European folk medicine and Native American healing. In the form of an ointment the plant has been used as an astringent for bruises, skin irritations, and insect bites. North American Indians brewed a tea from the plant for the treatment of tuberculosis and other pulmonary ailments. Other medicinal uses include bladder troubles, pain relief, dysentery, diarrhoea, jaundice, haemoptysis and other haemorrhages, hysteria, anxiety, and nervous depression.
STUDIES “Early trials in 1984, showed that after taking a standardized extract of St John’s wort, 15 women had improvements in symptoms of anxiety including depression, insomnia, and feelings of worthlessness, among other indicators. This sparked more research. Up to 1993 there had been 25 controlled clinical studies measuring the antidepressive effectiveness of St John’s wort, involving 1592 individual patients. Dosages ranged between 300-900 mg of an extract [representing all constituents in the tops of the plants], for two to sixteen weeks in duration. Fifteen of the studies were placebo-controlled studies and ten studies compared St John’s wort-containing preparations with other substances. … A recent 1994 randomized placebo-controlled double blind study by a psychiatrist, an internal specialist, and a general practitioner in Austria evaluated the effect of St John’s wort on 105 out-patients diagnosed with mild to moderate depression or temporary depressive moods. Patients were given the equivalent of 300 mg of St John’s wort extract [standardized to a hypericin content of 0.9 mg] or a placebo preparation three times per day [900 mg per day] for a period of 4 weeks. The results of eight patients both in the placebo group and treatment group were not assessed in the final results. In the treatment group 67 percent were assessed to respond to treatment, while only 28 percent responded in the placebo group. Treatment group patients were assessed as having significant improvements in depressive mood indicators [feeling of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and uselessness], as well as emotion, fear, and symptoms of difficult or disturbed sleep. No significant side effects were observed. These researchers concluded that compared with synthetic antidepressants, the St John’s wort extract produced side effects of minor significance, and that the extract can be recommended for the treatment of mild and moderate depression. However, the authors cautioned that while St John’s wort was evaluated to be safe and effective for mild to moderate forms of depression [as determined by the Hamilton depression scale], that St John’s wort preparations were not suitable for serious depression.”1 Other studies demonstrate that treatment with Hypericum is particularly efficient in patients with seasonal affective disorder [SAD], a subgroup of major depression with a regular occurrence of symptoms in autumn/winter and full remission in spring/summer.
HERBAL PRODUCT Hypericum, hailed as a natural remedy for depression, is said to have an excellent ‘safety record’ during centuries of use in folk medicine. Its extensive use in Germany [66 million daily doses in 1994!] has resulted in no report of serious drug interactions or even toxicity after accidental overdose. However, the herb is so widely used as an antidepressant that the Medicines Control Agency [MCA] in the United Kingdom issued a warning advising that the herb should not be used by women taking the contraceptive pill and patients on HIV, depression and migraine treatments, because it is thought to interfere with the action of these drugs. Studies published in the Lancet and the British Medical Journal have shown that St John’s wort speeds up the break down of medicines in the body, leading to lower levels of the drug in blood. It can also interfere with brain chemicals. The herb has also been shown to cause break-through bleeding in some women using the pill. Investigating the effects of such herbs as Hypericum, Echinacea and Ginkgo on fertility, scientists at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California found that St John’s wort in particular impaired the ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg. It also seemed to cause genetic mutations in the sperm.
EFFECTS Cattle and [most commonly] sheep can develop photosensitivity from consumption of large amounts of the plant, and people on large doses of Hypericum have reported rashes, itching and redness of skin after exposure to ultraviolet light. The poisonous principle is hypericin, which is present throughout the plant. Hypericin is lost upon drying of the plant. Other side effects, which were reported in 2 to 10% of users of St John’s wort extracts, were gastrointestinal irritations, mild allergic reactions, fatigue, anxiety, dizziness, and restlessness. Hypericin is thought to inhibit monoamine oxidase [MAO], an enzyme system that oxidizes many compounds in foods and drugs into harmless by-products and that is associated with depression. MAO-inhibition may lead to interactions with alcohol, narcotics, and foods containing tyramine, such as yeast, meat extracts, salami, aged cheeses, dried fish, herring, sour cream, and broad beans. Hypericin accumulates in brain, stomach and skin tissue, but is more rapidly excreted in other tissues. Studies in mice have shown a hypericum extract to increase exploration in an unfamiliar environment, prolong sedative sleep time, and antagonize the effects of reserpine.
FOLKLORE St John’s wort was termed piri by the ancient Assyrians, who hung it on doorways during their ceremonies as a prophylactic against demons. “On St John’s Eve or Day [24 June] great bonfire festivals were celebrated throughout medieval Europe. Wearing wreaths made of St John’s wort the people danced and cast the plants into the fires to ensure an abundant harvest and to protect their cattle from sorcery-induced disease. After the fires were out, the wreaths were thrown on to roofs to protect the houses from lightning, conflagrations and evil spells. St John’s wort was carried in amulets against witchcraft, thrown on hearths during storms, tied to cribs to avert changeling substitutions, and buried underneath cattle stall doorways and the thresholds of witches’ houses. Until quite recently, women carried the plant during wartime, in the hope that it would prevent their violation. At the same time, soldiers smeared the ruddy sap on their rifle barrels to ensure unerring aim and accuracy. Medieval knights were allowed into tournaments only after swearing that they carried no St John’s wort, as this would give them an unfair advantage.”2 In the middle of the 19th century St John’s wort was employed in Wales to predict life expectancy. A piece of the plant was gathered for each person in the house, cleaned ‘free from dust and fly’, and each piece named after a member of the household before being hung on a rafter. In the morning the pieces were examined: those whose pieces had withered most were expected to die soonest.3
PROVINGS •• [1] Müller – 3 [female] provers, 1837; method: single dose of 4 drops of tincture, with effects reportedly lasting for 3 weeks.
•• [2] Stokes – proving on himself and his wife, 1852; method: repeated doses of 1/2 to 1 dram of tincture and infusion.
•• [3] Bruckner – self-experimentation; method: 6th dil. for 5 days, 30th dil. on seventh day, and 6th dil. on eighth, ninth, and fourteenth days.
•• [4] Schelling – self-experimentation; method: 2 doses of 1st dil., followed after 5 days by 6 drops of tincture, and, 4 days later, 1 drop of tincture for 8 days.
•• [5] George Royal – 8 provers [6 males, 2 females], 1894; method: repeated doses of tincture, 1x, 3x, 6x, and 30x.
[1] Foster, St John’s wort; website. [2] Lipp, Herbalism. [3] Vickery, Dictionary of Plant-lore.
SPINAL NERVES [COCCYX; interscapular; meninges]. Vertex.
Worse: INJURY [JAR; concussion; penetrating; shock; bruises]. Exertion. Change of weather. Fogs. Cold damp weather. Closed room. Motion. COLD AIR.
Better: Lying on abdomen. Bending backward. Lying quietly.
Main symptoms
* The Arnica of the nerves.
M Nervous, hurried feeling.
• “About 1 a.m. , wakened up and could not go to sleep for an hour or more; was nervous; mind active with the daily occupation. Every sentence was mentally written on the type-writer as soon as thought; tried to stop thinking about it, and the words of the resolution were seemingly transferred to the keys of the type-writer.”
[prover had to finish 15 pages of a manuscript on the type-writer.]
• “Nervous; restless; could not be satisfied to do anything long at a time; a hurried feeling as though there was something on hand that must be done at once.”1
M Lachrymose mood.
• “Was unusually nervous all the morning; melancholy; felt like crying, and could hardly refrain from doing so; so strong was the inclination and so shocking would have been the consequences that I took a dose of Pulsatilla, and in less than half an hours the clouds had rolled by, and all was sunshine once more. At 3 p.m. took 25 drops of 30x in 1 ounce water. At 5 p.m. noticed heavy, dull pain in the lumbar region. Have not been so nervous since I took the Puls. About 8 p.m. , nervous, hurried feeling; lachrymose; melancholy. Went to bed about 10 p.m. ; was restless, but slept well all night.”2
c Similar symptoms occurred in the older provings:
• “Great sadness, she feels like to weep.”
• “Is very dejected and feels like to weep.” [both in Müller’s proving]
• “Mind disposed to be sad and tenderly melancholy.” [proving Stokes]
M Busy dreams.
• “Dreamed horrible dreams of dreadful surgical operations which I was performing on my own relatives – operations of great magnitude, which I was quite unable to finish.”3
• “Dreamed of journeying, hunting, etc.” [Allen]
• “Tiresome dreams of climbing hills, scaling cliffs, great pressure of work, flying.” [Hughes]
c Hypericum person picture. [In herbal medicine!]
• “These people are often ‘sick’ from a nervous system which is too strong, not too weak. Every stimulus encountered produces immediate and acute response. ‘Hypericums’ are quick to do everything. Quick to grow, quick to mature, quick to dive headlong into life, their coordination may sometimes suffer with the speed of their nervous energy, and occasional clumsiness may mark them out. They put off, if possible, any experience where physical pain is known to be involved. Dental appointments find them apprehensive, to say the least, with vividly recalled memories of past pain. They put off such appointments often, preferring to have all their teeth pulled out with general anaesthesia if at all possible. Injections are also avoided. In fact, any sharp pain experiences are so vividly recorded and recallable that they may refuse altogether a possible second experiment. As children they have to be dragged screaming to the dentist or to a medical treatment previously painful. Do not call them ‘silly’ or ‘cry-babies’: they really have a very low pain threshold, and their nervous systems record any pain at white-hot levels. Strangely, they carry emotional suffering well! More than most people, they take decisive and speedy action to settle problems with others. … These people are speedy. They gallop through the day, their agile minds often leaping ahead of them and causing the above uncoordination. Often intellectually bright, they enjoy their education only if the teacher is not boring or slow. ‘Hypericum’ as a child can be precocious! In later life ‘Hypericums’ seek new experience and intellectual challenge. … ‘Hypericums’ have intensely reactive five senses. With hyper-acute hearing, a sensitive palate, and a sense of smell that finds spring a heady season, they suffer most of all with touch-sense.”4
Especially fingers, toes, matrices of nails and coccyx.
Injuries to head or spine.
CONVULSIONS after injury to head.
• “Removes bad effects of shock, fright or mesmerism.” [Allen]
• “Nervous depression following wounds, surgical operations.” [Mathur]
G PENETRATING wounds, esp. of palms and soles.
And if pain shoots up the nerve.
G Prevents lock-jaw, tetanus [Led.].
G SHOOTING, lancinating pains ALONG NERVES.
[extending from the seat of the injury]
And Crawling and numbness.
G Neuralgic pains; parts excessively painful and sore; < change of weather. G < COLD in general. < COLD AIR. G < FOGGY weather . < Dry weather. G Pains APPEAR suddenly and disappear gradually. Or appear suddenly and disappear suddenly. • “Took 10 drops of the 30x at 3 p.m. About 4 o’clock, noticed sharp pains in the forearm, which followed the course of the muscular branches of the median nerve. Also, sharp pain in the inner side of the right thigh. Pains sudden in appearance, and disappeared as suddenly.”5 P Vertigo. • “Vertigo with sensation as if head has suddenly become elongated; at night, with urging to urinate.” [Mathur] P FRONTAL or occipital HEADACHE. < Jar; going up or down stairs. > OPEN AIR. [5 provers!]
> Eating.
> Bending head backward. [2 provers]
c Stokes noticed that he: • “Lay a good deal on back; sleep uneasy; threw head back, and kept on jerking it backwards.” [Hughes]
P Asthma in foggy weather; > copious expectoration.
• “Asthmatic respiration after injury of the spine.” [Kent]
P Pain in coccyx during, after or since [instrumental] DELIVERY.
[1-3] George Royal, New Provings of Hypericum; Transactions of the Amer. Inst. of Hom., 1895. [4] Hall, Herbal Medicine. [5] George Royal, ibid.
Confusion, in morning on waking [1], as to his identity, sense of duality [1]. Delusions, he is not lying on his bed, on waking at 4 h [1/1], of floating in air [1], she was being lifted high in the air [1/1], hears voices of dead people [1]. Fear, of downward motion [1]. Hurry, hurried feeling as if there was something on hand that must be done at once [1*]. Loss of memory, after concussion of brain [2].
As if elevated [1]. As if floating [2]. From urge for urination [2/1].
Coldness, as if forehead were touched by an icy cold hand [1*]. Enlarged sensation, elongated [1/1]. Pain, > washing face in cold water [1*], > eating [1*], > walking slowly in cool air [1*].
Colours, yellow spots [1*]. Dim, when reading [1*].
Feeling as if drums were forced outward [1*].
Acute, during menses [2].
Sensation of a hard lump in stomach [1*]. Nausea, at sight of fat pork [1*]. Pain, after milk [1].
Diarrhoea, after coffee [1], before menses [1], in warm weather [2].
Menses, scanty [1*], short, less than 48 hours [1*].
Asthmatic, with profuse perspiration [1/1].
Sensation as if heart would fall down [1].
Pain, sore, cervical region, as if bruised [1*].
Numbness, feet, before menses [1/1].
Position, on back with head bent backward [1*].
God repudiating him [1/1].
* Repertory additions [George Royal].
Aversion: [1]: Sight of fat pork [*]; smell of coffee [*]; wine.
Desire: [2]: Warm drinks. [1]: Hot milk; pickles; pickled meat; pungent; wine.
* Repertory additions [George Royal].

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