Touch-and-heal, demon chaser, goatweed, Barbe de Saint-Jean, chasse diable, herbe a mille vertus, millepertuis, amber, St John's wort. These are some of the names given to hypericum perforata.
This ragged, deep yellow flower has an endless list of properties and is used to help lift people out of melancholy and mild depression. It is soothing to the nervous system and is a very good remedy for anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
Being a powerful antiviral agent, Hypericum is known to help prevent and heal outbreaks of Herpes simplex 1 and 2.
It is often used for helping with premenstrual tension and menopausal symptoms.
The olive oil infusion makes a wonderful massage oil. It is also used to treat grazes, burns, sprains, frozen shoulder, insect bites, sunburn and chapped lips. A balm can be made by emulsifying the infused olive oil with beeswax. More on this to come in a few weeks.
Hypericum's affinity with the sun is obvious. It's stamen look like sun rays. One of the main active ingredients, hypericin, is at its strongest when the plant is not fully in flower, when there are still some unopened buds on the plant. Traditionally, the time to pick it is in the days around the solstice or on the feast of its namesake, St John the Baptist, 24th June. That it helps lift the spirits, especially in the winter months makes sense.
It grows everywhere in the world other than in the desert, tropical lowlands and the polar regions, so very likely it grows near you. Once I spotted it and took an interest in the plant, it caught my eye wherever I went.
To make the oil infusion, pick the flowers, including a short section of stem and leaves. Leave some flowers to remain on the plant so that it can seed itself. Allow the flowers to dry in the sunshine for a few hours so that any insects can crawl out, and there is not too much moisture in them. Fill a clean jar with the blossoms, stalks, leaves and all, and cover with olive oil, making sure they are submerged, and leaving some head room. Place somewhere sunny, either outside or in a window, or failing that, somewhere warm. Leave for four to six weeks, checking the inside of the lids every now and again for condensation, which you can wipe off with some paper towel.
Then, when it has turned amber, it is strained through a clean cloth.
Thank you to my old friend, Angus in Devon, for reminding me to look into Hypericum and thank you to Jacky for showing me the plant.