Herbal Guide to St

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St. John?s wort is a cheerful, useful plant that any herbalist can easily add to her medicine cabinet. Here is the history of the plant and how to grow it (or forage it). Plus, learn the benefits St. John?s wort, plus three different ways you can use it. 

St John's wort plant and how to make an oil with it

Recently, I was out for a walk with my herbalist friend, Lori Snyder, and we started talking about St. John?s Wort. I met Lori a few years ago when she left a comment here on Garden Therapy and I immediately recognized her name as a local herbal teacher in Vancouver who offers many herb walks and plant talks. I messaged her directly to say hello and a friendship was born!

Over the years, I have attended many of Lori?s herb walks, and plant medicine talks both in-person and online. On the day we chatted about St. John?s Wort, it was blooming all around us and Lori mentioned that with the worldwide uncertainly and stress, folks could really use some of its wonderful benefits.

I invited Lori to share her wisdom with us today. I will hand it over to her now so you can get to know my dear friend and this timely healing herb.

Wooden bowl with St. John's wort flowers inside.

Herbal Guide to St. John?s Wort

Written by Lori Snyder

St. John?s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is often labeled a weed which is not really her true identity nor a representation of her true gifts. After all, ?wort? is an old English word for ?herb?.

The History of St John?s Wort

Like so many ?weeds? there can be a lot of conflicting information. Sometimes we forget how long these medicinal healing plants have been growing with us and helping us to stay balanced and healthy.

Back in the 1800s, if your neighbour was sad, overwhelmed, and anxious (like many of us are today) you would have thought they were possessed! The village herbalist would recommend they drink St. John?s wort flower tea and after 6-8 weeks the neighbour would have reported that they felt like a light inside them had turned back on. That?s because this magical healing plant is said to help with mild to moderate depression.

This has been proven true in modern times as well. In fact, research in Germany has recognized St. John?s wort to be helpful for depression officially since 1984.

Growing the St. John?s Wort Plant

Close up of blooming yellow flowers on the St. John's wort plant

St. John?s is described as a mid-size perennial with yellow flowers which differs from other Hypericums by the ?perforations? in the leaf, filled with red resinous glands of hypericin and other active compounds.

Planting: St John?s Wort spreads by seed and well as an active vegetative root.

Height and Spread: It will grow to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in).

Zone: USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 10.

Soil: St John?s Wort grows well in sand, clay, rocky soil or loam, and tolerates acidic to slightly alkaline pH.

Light requirements:  St. John?s wort can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.

Watering: St. John?s wort prefers moist soil.

Flowering: St. John?s wort is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by bees and flies. The plant is self-fertile.

Invasive Species Alert

In the US and Canada, St. John?s wort is often considered a noxious weed, also referred to as Klamath weed. The can cause injury to light-skinned cattle, has a protective covering on the seeds that allow it to survive for up to 10 years. Additionally, a single plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds.

Keep in mind that what is a weed to some is a wildflower to others. St. John?s Wort is full of wonderful properties beneficial for people, the land, and our pollinators.

Foraging the St. John?s Wort Plant

foraging st. john's wort by a chain link fence

You might find the St. John?s Wort plant growing anywhere soil has been disturbed. This includes open woods, grasslands, in dry sunny places, along roadways, in the cracks of sidewalks, alongside pastures, or even in your garden. I know Stephanie has some growing in her garden winds replacement canopy for the windsor gazebo standard 350 beige_700032 because I harvested some to infuse in oil on her windowsill during my last visit.

You can identify St. John?s Wort by holding the leaf up to the light to look for the small glands that look like holes. There are 10 times more glands in the flower than the leaf or stem which is why the flower is so often used in herbalism.

Harvesting St John?s Wort

Harvesting st. john's wort in a basket

Its prevalence means that planting it in your garden is not necessary; you can very likely find plants growing wild that have plenty of flowers to share.

I have harvested from late June into late August.

The best time to harvest is in the mid-day when the medicinal properties are at its height.  Harvest the flower tops, leaf, and stem. The stems are quite stiff so best to use scissors.

St John?s Wort Benefits

Now that you know how to identify and harvest this fascinating plant, let?s talk about why you should do so. The benefits of St. John?s wort are well-worth your efforts?here are just a few.

St. John's wort flowers in a wooden bowl

St. John?s Wort for Depression and SAD

The chemical component of ?hypericin? is known to interfere with monoamine oxidase (MOA) which contributes to depression.  Pharmaceutical products also act as MOA inhibitors however St. John?s Wort is slower acting and has few side effects.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can have long cloudy winters with little sun so I use this daily on my face as my moisturizer which is very effective for SAD.  Some people who are fair-skinned report that they are more sensitive to the sun when using St. John?s Wort oil; however, the sun is not as strong in the winter so anyone applying it then should be fine.

Digestive and Nervous System Benefits

St John?s Wort is also used for the digestive and nervous system. It improves the absorption of nutrients and normalizes stomach acid levels which fluctuate as we age.  Helpful for ulcers, heartburn and bloating.

It is also helpful with bedwetting, menstrual challenges, menopause, liver tension as it gently decongests and strengthens both liver and the gallbladder.

St. John?s Wort as a Pain Reliever

St. John?s Wort is said to be very helpful as a pain reliever and repairing skin tissue. I use it for my sciatica, applying the infused oil on my lower back and down my leg where the pain is.

Top view of st. john's wort oil

St. John?s Wort Side Effects and Warnings

Please do not take St. John?s Wort with antidepressants without the supervision of an herbalist or medical practitioner. Like any herb, it is important that you research as it and check with your health care professional before using it as might have any interactions with drug medications.

A research paper in 2000 was published which raised a new concern. St John?s Wort extract was shown to improve liver function. Although this would normally be considered to be a good thing, this paper raised the concern that improved liver function might cause pharmaceutical drugs to be broken down more quickly and could mean that people who needed to have a drug active in their system 24 hours per day, could now, in theory, have a gap where the drug was not active.

This could potentially be a problem.

For example, if a woman was taking the contraceptive pill and St. John?s Wort then there could now be time during 24 hours where her pill would not be actively working in her body and she could in theory become pregnant.

How to Use St. John?s Wort

There are three ways I?d recommend to use this helpful plant: an oil, as a tincture, and as a dream pillow.

How to Make St. John?s Wort Oil

Glass jar of oil infused with small yellow flowers on a window sill

Infusing fresh flowers and leaf into vegetable oil makes a soothing facial oil that has many uses. Only fresh flowers can be used for infusions, not dried plant material.

Infuse it into vegetable oil and place it in a sunny window to infuse in the sun for one month.

The infused oil will turn a beautiful red. Then, strain out the plant material, bottle it, and label.

How to Use St. John?s Wort Oil

There are many ways you can use this oil. A few ideas include:

  • as a facial oil
  • for back pain
  • sciatica
  • neuralgia
  • arthritic joints and arthritis
  • help heal wounds
  • heal surgical scars
  • assist with bruises and sprains

Make a Tincture

You can also make into an alcohol tincture for seasonal affective disorder, liver congestion, shingles, nervous exhaustion, menopausal moods, viral infections, and jet lag.

Alcohol tinctures are used to extract different chemical components that are alcohol soluble. Some folks are very precise in preparation with weight and volume but I prefer the simple folklore method of 1 part plant to 2 parts alcohol.

Make sure the plant material is completely covered, shake daily for 4 weeks, then strain out the plant and label your bottle with the date.

Tinctures can last up to 10 years.

Dose 1-4 ml 3x daily.  I suggest noticing how you react to any type of stimulus as to the best dosage for your body type.

DIIY Dream Pillow

Make a dream pillow with flowers and leaves and place it into a small cloth bag or a square piece of fabric and gather to tie up.

Place under your pillow for nightmares, bad dreams, and fear of the dark.

Final Thoughts

flowering bush of st. johns wort

Friends helping friends is a good motto and I am grateful to Stephanie Rose for inviting me to write for Garden Therapy. We met a few years ago and over time have been growing our friendship.

There is a lot of information and research on this bright little yellow flower that offers so much healing for us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. I am so grateful for her teachings and now we can harvest her medicine vs. spraying her with poisons that eventually poison us as we are all part of the same web.

Chief Seattle once shared?.The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.  All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.  Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Blessings dear friends,

all our Relations

~ Lori

More Herbal Guides to Enjoy:

3 Ways to Use St. John's Wort

St John's wort is a fascinating plant filled with helpful medicinal properties. Learn three different methods for utilizing it, and enjoy the benefits.


St. John's Wort Oil

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 handful St. John's wort flowers must be fresh, not dried

St. John's Wort Tincture

  • 1 part St. Johns wort
  • 2 parts

DIY Dream Pillow

  • 1 cloth bag or square piece of fabric
  • 1 handful of flowers and leaves


To Make the Oil

  • Pour the oil into a glass jar, and add the flowers.
  • Let it sit on a sunny windowsill.
  • Infuse for one month.
  • Strain the flowers out and re-bottle the oil.

To Make the Tincture

  • Combine the alcohol and plant, making sure that the plant material is completely covered.
  • Let it sit for four weeks, but make sure to shake it daily.
  • Strain out the plants and rebottle, then label.

To Make the Dream Pillow

  • Place your leaves and flowers into the cloth bag.
  • Put it under your pillow to prevent nightmares or fear of the dark.


About the Author

author and herbalist Lori Snyder

Lori Snyder is a M?tis herbalist and educator sharing stories and teachings with children and adults in Vancouver, BC, for the last 7 years.  She has studied horticulture, aromatherapy, herbalist and permaculture and has a deep love for nature.  Tsuu T?ina, Anishinaabe, Cree, Nakoda, and Nipissing Nations are mixed with her Scottish, French, and Celtic ancestry. She loves honouring the plants and their medicines which are growing all around us.

You can find Lori , and .

You can also take a fascinating , or join her at the  where her teachings are being featured in July-Sept. If you are in (or will be in) the Vancouver area, you can even join her for an !


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Ladybugs can be a very helpful ally in the fight against plant-damaging pests. Thankfully, it?s fairly easy to get these cheery bugs into your garden, with these tips and tricks. Here?s what you need to know about how to attract ladybugs to your garden?and why you should.

close up of a ladybug on a leaf

Organic gardening is wonderful. It ensures that everything you grow is completely safe and natural, which is especially important when . The only problem is that aphids like to eat organic veggies too! Having a squad of ladybugs on patrol in the garden can do wonders to get rid of common garden pests. This guide will tell you everything you need to attract and keep ladybugs in your garden and why you need to.

Why You Need to Know How to Attract Ladybugs

Not only are ladybugs absolutely beautiful with their cheery signature red and polka-dotted shells, but they are one of the . Wondering why? It?s all about what ladybugs eat!

What do Ladybugs Eat?

Ladybugs are pest-eating superheroes! They eat all the annoying little pests that you don?t want in your garden such as:

  • aphids
  • mealybugs
  • mites
  • scale
  • and lots of other bad bugs!

Not only do ladybugs eat pests, but they eat a lot of them. In fact, one ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids over the course of its life! See why you should learn how to attract ladybugs?

aphids on a stem - the perfect ladybug food!

Ladybug Life Cycle

In order to best attract ladybugs to your garden, it?s important to understand the ladybug life cycle and what they need in each stage of it. Here is a brief overview of how ladybugs hatch and mature.

ladybugs mating on a stem


Female ladybugs will lay a clutch of 10-50 bright yellow eggs on the underside of a leaf. They are careful to choose a location for their eggs that is in close proximity to a large amount of food for the larvae to eat when they hatch.

Often, ladybugs will choose areas close to large aphid populations to lay their eggs, as the aphids are a good source of food. A female ladybug will lay several egg clutches per season, and can lay up to 1,000 eggs in one year!


A few days after the eggs are laid, they hatch into larvae. Ladybug larvae are not quite as cute looking as the mature beetles. They have oblong bodies with spiny bumps all over them. Their bodies are mostly dark gray or black, with some bright orange or red spots or bands.

Familiarize yourself with the way ladybug larvae look so that you can recognize them when you see them in the garden.

ladybug larva on a leaf

Larvae need to eat a lot as they go through four different larval stages to reach maturity. Lucky for us, most of what they feed on is aphids, scale, mites, and other common garden pests, so if you see a ladybug larva in your garden, be happy! They are already doing good work for you this early in their life.


When a larva is big enough (see: has eaten enough pests), it is ready to pupate. At this time, the larva attaches itself to a leaf somewhere safe and its body undergoes a massive transformation over the course of 3-12 days. By the end of this process, the pupae?s body has formed into a mature ladybug.

ladybug pupa on a leaf


You can recognize a newly mature ladybug by the color of its body. They are usually yellow or orange when they have recently finished the pupa stage, and will turn bright red as they age.

How to Attract Ladybugs

Now that you know why you should learn how to attract ladybugs, as well as what the ladybug life cycle is, let?s talk about how to actually attract these helpful insects.

Plant Things that Ladybugs Like to Eat

, dill, marigold, cilantro, chives, cosmos, and yarrow are all attractive to ladybugs, so pick your favorites and plant them around the garden this year.

ladybug in the garden

Let Weeds Stay

Ladybugs love dandelions! Embrace these golden-flowered ?weeds? and let a few grow. Bonus: and have a ton of health benefits.

Give Ladybugs Water

Leave a shallow dish of water near some of your ladybug-attracting plants so they can have a drink when they need one. Add a few river stones or marbles to the dish to give ladybugs a place to sit as they drink. Refresh the water regularly so it doesn?t run out or become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

ladybug on a leaf

Keep it Organic

Pesticides are not ladybug friendly. Stick to natural growing techniques and everyone will be happier. If you have a bad infestation, instead of using harmful chemicals, I recommend you try this .

Grow Groundcovers

Low-growing groundcovers give ladybugs protection by sheltering them from predators such as birds and other insects. and thyme are both good options.

a ladybug hunting aphids

Encourage Aphids

A simple way to learn how to attract ladybugs is to plant some nasturtiums specifically for aphids. It will distract aphids from munching on your vegetables, and the aphids on the nasturtiums will, in turn, attract ladybugs who will eat them up along with all sorts of other pests in your garden.

Ladybugs will lay their eggs in an area with lots of aphids because they know their young will have a food source, so allowing a few aphids in your garden can bring you a lot more ladybugs who will grow up to patrol your whole garden and keep it safe.

how to attract ladybugs by attracting aphids

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These beautiful botanical soap bars are equal parts pretty and practical! A clear soap bar is made into a work of art with botanicals such as flowers, leaves, and herbs, a perfect way to preserve your garden?s bounty. Whether you gift these or keep them for yourself, this melt and pour project is absolutely stunning. 

How to Make Botanical Soap

This botanical soap is a fun project for encapsulating what grows in your own backyard to bring a little nature to your bath or shower. Handmade soap makes a lovely gift and it is surprisingly simple to make a large batch of botanical soaps with little effort. It?s amazing what you can create with the beauty of nature and a few melt and pour soap supplies!

Botanical Soap Recipe

I?m going to start this post off by sharing the basic soap recipe, and then we?ll get into the fun part, the botanicals!

Supplies Needed to Make Clear Soap Bars

  •  or
  • 1 teaspoon  (your choice of scent)
  • Botanicals (see test ingredients below for ideas)

Clear soap bars with botanicals pressed inside.

Make it!

If you haven?t done soapmaking before, this melt and pour soap is a great place to start. Here?s how to make the entire botanical soap project step by step.

Choose the Botanicals

Gather up a variety of flowers, leaves, and herbs that are small enough to fit into a silicone soap/cupcake mold. See the list below on the botanicals I tested for this recipe and choose the results that you like the best.Soap mold with botanicals around it

Make the Clear Soap Bars

Start with a so you can clearly see the botanicals when the soap is complete. Cut up the glycerine soap base into 1-inch cubes and add them to the Pyrex measuring cup.Pyrex measuring cup filled with cubes of clear melt and pour soap base.

Melt the soap base in a microwave or double-boiler so that it is just melted. You want the soap base to melt, but not cook. Remove the soap base from the microwave or off of the double boiler before it starts to steam. There may be a few chunks left, but that is just fine. Those will melt if you keep stirring the soap base for a few minutes after removing it from the heat.

When your soap base is melted, add in the essential oils to the soap mix.

Add in the Botanicals

Pour half of the soap into the silicone mold and add your botanicals. Allow them to set for a few minutes before topping up the molds with more melted soap base. You may need to gently poke the botanicals into place using a toothpick.Oval soap mold filled with clear soap bars with botanicals inside

Use a metal spoon to skim any bubbles off the top of the soap before it dries.

Unmold the soaps when they are completely dry and then they are ready to use.Clear soap bars with flowers and leaves inside each

Botanical Soap Ingredient Ideas

As I mentioned above, I tested a number of different botanicals from the garden for this soap project. I definitely had some unexpected results! Let?s go through them one by one.


I am so in love with the saffron soap. It took on the color and lightness of saffron and is the most striking result of them all.clear soap bars made with saffron inside


The chamomile botanical soap is another favorite as the soap magnifies the small flower heads and the stems float organically in the soap.

Botanical Soap with Chamomile


The calendula soap looks airy with pale yellow petals floating in the soap and bursts of the flower heads.

Yellow soap bars filled with calendula


The rosemary was cut fresh, unlike the dried herbs. While it held its shape very well, it did start to brown a little in the soap, which I don?t like as much.

Clear soap bars filled with rosemary sprigs and eucalyptus


The eucalyptus leaves were hard to keep in place in the soap as they are so light that they float around quite a bit. They hold their color and shape beautifully, though. (Eucalyptus shown above)


I didn?t know what to expect from the nasturtium. It was a bit of a gamble, and I thought it would probably wilt and shrivel up. Surprisingly, it actually held the color and shape fairly well. I would use nasturtium petals next time to see if that changes the overall look.

Clear soap with nasturtium flowers

Botanicals to Skip for This Project

There were a few botanical soaps that did not turn out very well, mainly the rose petal and sage leaf. I would probably try a bay leaf next time instead of a sage leaf. The sage leaf curled and browned in the soap and doesn?t look all that interesting. The rose petals turned into brown blobs in the soap and look really ugly. Clear soap filled with rose petals

What a surprise! I thought that the rose petal soap would look the prettiest. I have reserved the leftover rose petals for a whole different soap project that will let their beauty shine through.

More Soap Recipes to Try

Here are some more recipes for making soap at home. I love to make soap and I?m sure you will find a recipe or two that suits you here:

These botanical soap bars are decorated with flowers, herbs, and leaves found in the garden. See the step-by-step instructions for how to make them at home.

DIY Botanical Soap Bars

Preserve your garden's bounty in a clear soap bar! These botanical soap bars are a work of art with flowers, leaves, and herbs.


  • Microwave or double boiler
  • 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup
  • Oval silicone soap/cupcake mold


  • 2 lb
  • 1 tsp in the scent of your choice
  • botanicals see post for more info


  • Gather your botanicals. Make sure they are small enough to fit into the soap mold.
  • Cut your clear soap base into 1" cubes, then place them all into the glass measuring cup. Use the microwave or the double boiler to melt the cubes, making sure to stir frequently.
  • Remove the soap from heat before it begins to steam. Then add your essential oils to the soap and stir again.
  • Pour half of the soap into the mold. Next, layer your botanicals into the soap. Let them set for a few minutes, then top off the rest of the mold with melted soap.
  • If you notice any bubbles on the top of the soap, use a metal spoon to skim them off. Then allow them to dry fully.
  • Unmold and enjoy!

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