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St John’s Wort Essential Oil Benefits for Health

St John's Wort Essential Oil

What is St John’s Wort Essential Oil (Absolute)?

St John’s wort essential oil, or absolute, is a natural volatile substance that contains the active ingredients of the plant Hypericum perforatum.

The essential oil of St John’s wort generally is obtained by two different methods: CO2 or Steam Distillation.

Research has shown that essential oil extraction efficiency with liquid or supercritical CO2 (yield 1.00%, w/w) is higher than with steam distillation (0.06%, w/w).

Hyperforin (a main compound in the essential oil) and derivatives can be extracted using liquid or supercritical CO2, but not with steam distillation

This amazing oil is traditionally recommended in cases of mild depression, sadness and autumnal or spring asthenia. Also, nowadays, its application in treatments against serious autoimmune or carcinogenic diseases is being investigated.

With its characteristic bright red color, given by hypericin, St. John’s wort oil is a very precious natural remedy. This is a true cure for all skin problems treatments, due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, among others.

It is important to note that in general, the classic color of this oil is pure red. However, there are others that vary in hue due to the presence of other nutritive and medicinal components biologically active in it, producing an oil that is slightly brownish because of the fresh leaves and fruit inclusion.

About the Hypericum perforatum plant

Hypericum perforatum, is a perennial plant native to the European continent, northern Africa and Western Asia, although those that come from the Canary Islands and Italy, are especially known for their high quality.

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This plant has a remarkable adaptive capacity, which has led to naturalization practically in all parts of the globe, from Australia to America.

Its scientific name Hypericum perforatum, is because its leaves, seen in backlight, seem perforated. Actually, what appears to be small holes, are vesicles that contain hypericin, the main active ingredient of St. John’s wort.

It is a plant that grows with a branched stem that can reach up to 80 centimeters long. Its flowers with five petals of intense golden yellow in color, are gathered in panicles and are collected in conjunction with the summer solstice, when the sun is at its zenith in Ecuador.

St John's Wort Essential Oil

The plant reaches the peak of the balsamic period, that is, the maximum concentration of its active ingredients, on June 24, the day dedicated to the celebration of Saint John.

Due to the above, comes the habit of harvesting the herbs on this day and especially on the night of St. John, the so-called night of witches, where formerly the herbs were collected from the fields and rituals were practiced for propitiatory purposes.

Precisely because of this ancient tradition related to its harvest, the hypericum has the popular name of St. John’s wort.

Hypericum perforatum in history

According to legend, the Hypericum plant was born from the blood of Prometheus, Greek hero, symbol of rebellion against authority and freedom against power, who was punished for stealing the fire of the Gods to give to men.

His punishment was to be tied to a cliff where every day a giant eagle visited him to eat his liver. Every night, in fact, the hero’s liver grew again.

The history of Hypericum is also linked to that of the Templars. These Knights Templar were, in fact, the first to discover, in the twelfth century, the antidepressant properties of this plant.

They perceived that, in addition to being useful for healing wounds and treating burns, the Hypericum managed to raise the astral of wounded soldiers and those immobilized in bed for long periods after the battle.

In popular language, St. John’s wort is also known to ward off the devil, as it was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits.

Precisely because of this apotropaic function, it was often placed in sacred images, and from that ancient custom the plant receives its own name.

St. John’s wort essential oil is also called the “housewife’s oil” because it is the most common remedy to treat dry and cracked skin of the hands.

St John's Wort Essential Oil

Active principles of St. John’s Wort Essential Oil

St. John’s wort oil contains mostly flavonoids, ascorbic acid, cineole, pinene, tannins, phloroglucinolici (hyperforin) and limonene. However, the compound that gives it its most remarkable therapeutic value is hypericin.

Hypericin inhibits the action of the enzyme “dopamine b-hydroxylase”, which causes an increase in dopamine and serotonin (positive mood) in the body, while decreasing the amount of adrenaline.

Properties of St. John’s Wort Essential Oil

The hypericum oil is well known for its multiple applications, especially topical. It can effectively heal burns and alleviate muscular inflammation.

In addition, St John’s wort oil is used for sciatica, arthritis, pulled or strained muscles, sunburn and other burns after the initial heat has dissipated.

It is also an excellent antidepressant, used in the treatment of mild and moderate depression.  A benefit that little by little becomes globally known. This, thanks to studies endorsed by health agencies in some countries such as Germany, where it has been included in the official pharmacopoeia, and is widely prescribed for that therapeutic purpose.

Among its most known properties are: antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, regenerating, healing, soothing and slightly analgesic.

Benefits and Uses of St. John’s Wort Essential Oil

Skin Benefits

John’s wort oil can reduce stretch marks and skin blemishes, is an irreplaceable ally in the treatment of psoriasis and rosacea.

It promotes cell regeneration, neutralizes the aging of the skin, has an anti-inflammatory action. And finally, hypericum oil is the most powerful anti-wrinkle that exists in nature.

It can be used topically with excellent results in cases of:

Burns: For first-degree burns and especially suitable for sunburn; because it inhibits inflammation, calms the itching and warmth sensation. For this purpose, it is recommended to use it after solar exposure over the entire body.

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Wounds, scratches, scars and chafing: Apply 2 to 3 times a day in the affected area.

Skin conditions: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, acne, erythema, eschar, spots, striae and skin rashes.

It also helps with sores, ulcers and as prevention of eschar in people prostrated by reduced mobility.

Besides, it relieves insect bites, herpes simplex and herpes zoster.

Diaper rash: In babies, by doing a gentle massage after the bath, to keep the skin fresh, smooth, healthy and hydrated.

Tonic of the nervous system

One teaspoon of powdered dried flowers is recommended twice a day as an infusion, or 5-10 drops of tincture at night. This is a reparative tonic of the nervous system.

Depression 

St. John’s wort is approved by Commission E for treating depression.  It is helpful for treating mild to moderate depression but not for severe depression.  

As a natural painkiller

In addition to its psychological effects, St. John’s wort oil has excellent analgesic qualities, so it is usually administered to treat mild or moderate pain such as menstrual pain, pain caused by rheumatism, muscle pain, joint pain, gout, arthritis, sciatica, low back pain, contusions, tendonitis, strains, ligament strains, etc.

It acts as a soothing and vasodilator

St. John’s wort oil is usually used to treat varicose veins or hemorrhoids. The tannin that it has, helps to calm circulatory problems, which prevents the appearance of varicose veins and alleviates existing ones.

For hemorrhoids, seat baths should be performed by adding a few drops of  essential oil to the water.

St John’s Wort Essential Oil for internal use

Hypericum oil can also be used internally. In this case, it can be helpful as:

  • Antidepressant
  • Mood stabilizer
  • Anxiolytic
  • Antiviral
  • Antacid of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Anti-inflammatory effects of the oral cavity and airways
  • Lenitive of premenstrual syndrome and menstrual pains

However,  intakes should be controlled by a specialist, since St. John’s oil contains active ingredients that could be harmful in case of overdose.

St John's Wort Essential Oil

St John’s Essential Oil as a Scientifically Proven Powerful Antidepressant

Due to its effects on the nervous system, hypericin is used in pharmacopoeia to prepare compounds for the treatment of mild or moderate depression, sadness, decay, psychological disorders of menopause, premenstrual syndrome, etc.

Despite its use in antidepressant pharmacological compounds, research done by universities in Germany and Austria, confirm that treatment with pure hypericum (extract or oil), gives better results than treatments with conventional antidepressant drugs, in up to 60% of cases.

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St. John’s wort oil works by preventing neuronal re-uptake, which is the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine, responsible for good mood and psychological well-being.

In addition, it is able to modulate the production of melatonin, a precursor of serotonin, a hormone produced by our body mainly during the night.

Especially during periods of intense psychophysical stress or in conjunction with seasonal changes, hypericum oil can be an excellent mood tonic.

St John’s Wort Essential Oil in Cancer and Immune System

In March 2011, a study was published in the North American medical journal “Cancer” by a team of scientists from the US and Canada (faculties of medicine and neurosurgery), which revealed that 22% of patients with brain cancer, treated with hypericin (hypericin), reacted better to treatment against malignant gliomas, in combination with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery, than patients treated without this substance.

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The study has been expanded and they continue to investigate their anticancer activity.

Nowadays, other studies are also being carried out to confirm the positive activity of St. John’s wort for the treatment of the HIV virus, since it improves the activity of the immune system and prevents bacterial infections.

Topical Administration of St John’s Wort Oil

St. John’s wort essential oil can be used externally, to perform gentle massages for alleviate all kinds of pain. We recommend adding 5 to 10% dilution in a carrier oil of your preference.  The table below shows some examples for measurement:

Carrier Oil in Ounces 0.5% 1% 2.5% 3% 5% 10%
½ ounce 1-3 drops 3-5 drops 8-11 drops 9-13 drops 15-23 drops 30-45 drops
1 ounce 3-5 drops 6-9 drops 15-23 drops 18-27 drops 30-45 drops 60-90 drops
2 ounces 6-10 drops 12-18 drops 30-46 drops 36-54 drops 60-90 drops 120-180 drops
4 ounces 12-20 drops 24-36 drops 60-92 drops 72-108 drops 120-180 drops 240-360 drops

Also, to alleviate varicose veins or hemorrhoids, you can enhance the blend by adding cypress essential oil (for varicose veins) and frankincense or myrtle essential oil for hemorrhoids.   It blends perfect, due to its properties for both conditions, with a base carrier oil of horse chestnut.  However, you can use olive oil, coconut oil or sesame oil as well. 

For general body care oil, we recommend a 2.5 to 5% dilution.

Treatments with St. John’s wort oil should be continued and constant, since its effects will not be noticeable until after at least 3 weeks of administration.

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To heal wounds, treat acne, or other skin condition you can blend it with aloe vera gel (as a carrier base) or your favorite carrier oil.   

You can check the comedogenic scale of carrier oils to avoid clogged pores, dry skin or some other unwanted effects.  In this way you will choose the right oil for your skin type.

Dilution rates for face application:

Sensitive skin: 0.5 to 1% dilution = 4 to 9 drops per ounce
Normal, healthy skin: 1 to 2.5% dilution = 9 to 23 drops per ounce

Adverse effects of St  John’s Wort Essential Oil due to interactions with other substances

St John’s wort is a potent enzyme inducer of cytochrome P450 (CYP3A4 isoenzyme) and possibly also of P-glycoprotein. It can produce interactions with other substances, such as digoxin or oral anticoagulants.

Likewise, cases of rejection of heart transplantation have been documented in two patients who combined immunosuppressive treatment (cyclosporine) and hypericum treatment.

In both cases, everything seems to indicate that hypericum caused a decrease in plasma concentrations of ciclosporin below the therapeutic level, which caused rejection of the graft. A subsequent formal study showed that St. John’s Wort reduces the plasma concentration of indinavir.

Due to the importance of these data, it seems prudent not to associate the taking of hypericum with that of any hepatic metabolism drug.

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Warnings and Side Effects when using St John’s Wort Essential Oil

Precautions

St John’s wort oil should be administered carefully:

  • Do not use in case of pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Dose should be reduced to half in children from 6 to 12 years old, always attending professional recommendation.
  • In case of being under pharmacological treatment, consult a doctor or therapist before taking St John’s wort, as it may nullify the effect of other chemical compounds.
  • It is recommended not to expose yourself to sunlight or artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation immediately after the use of this oil. This product is highly photosensitizing, that is, it tends to amplify the effects of the sun’s rays on the skin, especially in the case of people with clear skin. You should wait at least 12 hours after application.

Contraindications

The St John’s wort oil, in fact, is an extremely powerful substance, which in some cases can have negative repercussions on our body.

It can interact with some types of drugs, improve their effects or, on the contrary, cancel their action. In particular, its use is contraindicated in cases of:

  • The use of hormonal contraceptives.
  • Pharmacological treatments with antidepressants, anticancer drugs or anticoagulants.
  • In the case of contraceptives, St John’s wort oil is able to nullify the effects, while patients treated with antidepressants can experience an excessive increase in serotonin in the bloodstream, to the point of reaching the so-called serotonin syndrome. This disorder is characterized by a wide spectrum of symptoms, including: headaches, hallucinations, agitation, confusion, tremors, muscle contractions, chills, tachycardia, perspiration, nausea and diarrhea.

St John's Wort Essential Oil

Intake toxicity

Phototoxicity (a type of allergic reaction): Photosensitivity is the main risk of toxicity, being of primary type since it is produced by digestive absorption of the plant, but in rare cases gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue or restlessness may appear.

Sometimes, although it is not as frequent, it may appear:

  • CNS disorders and sudden deaths due to the appearance of an anaphylactic shock.
  • Hepatic hypertrophy, yellowish
  • Gallbladder dilation
  • Marked general jaundice
  • Sweating

It should be noted that Hypericum poisoning occurs mainly in ovine animals during the ingestion of grass. Young animals are usually the most affected, due to the competition for food in the pasture, as well as the lack of experience of the latter when choosing non-toxic foods.

Where to buy St John’s Wort Essential Oil?

Usually, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.

If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some recommendation for you:

Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:

  • Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
  • Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
  • Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.

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