Have you earned your foraging badge yet?
If not, this is the time of year to do it. If you don’t have space (or time) for a garden – like me! – the summer is your chance to get fresh plants for free.
I recently went to a friend’s house in the country for a day of foraging. Ok, the foraging was more of an excuse to spend time in the sunshine, catch up and have a picnic. But I came home with two big bags full of plants for projects.
One bag was full of St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum). This stuff is gorgeous. Bright yellow flowers, and leaves perforated with little holes when you hold them up to the light (hence, the perforatum in the name).
You also wouldn’t know, but when you crush the plant, it leaves a bright red oil on your fingers. This is the stuff we want.
You’ve probably heard of St. John’s Wort. It’s one of the most commonly used plants in mainstream alternative medicine (ie, what you can find in the local drugstore/pharmacy) along with aloe, chamomile, peppermint and arnica. It’s often taken internally as pills, a tincture or tea for mild depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (more on that subject this winter!). But one of it’s most popular traditional uses is as an oil that you apply topically.
St. John’s Wort oil is one of the best homemade products to keep in your herbal first aid kit. Make some. Really.
Why? It’s one of the best wound-healers in the plant world. It’s also great at relieving nerve-related pain, so is good for bumps, strains, sore backs, sore joints etc. It’s suggested as soothing & healing for sunburns, and also for swollen glands. Just massage a small amount into the affected area several times per day. (These herbal medicine facts are taken from books by Maria Treben and Thomas Bartram, two of my favorite herbal resources!)
If you’re really getting into herbal infused oils but don’t have any St. Johns Wort, you could also try making daisy infused oil.
St. John’s Wort Oil
St. Johns Wort flowering tops (the flowers and a couple inches of the plant itself. Best picked at the peak of blossoming, in the sunshine to intensify the natural oils.)
Enough olive oil to cover them
A jar with a lid
Make sure there are no little bugs on your St. John’s Wort. You can do this by shaking the plants and leaving them to sit in a sunny area for an hour or so.
Put the flowering tops in a jar. Press them down.
Cover with olive oil. This is the trickiest part – you have to have all of the plant covered with oil or it might mold! As long as all of the flowers are covered with oil, you’ll be fine.
LABEL THE JAR. Always always always. You will forget what it is otherwise.
Set in a sunny window for at least 2 weeks. 4 weeks is better. You want the oil to take on a bright red color.
Now strain out the flowers. I do this with a strainer over a bowl. First pour all the flowers into the strainer, then squeeze out the remaining oil with your hands. This is the fun part!
Pour into clean, dark bottles. It’s always best to store oil in a dark bottle, it preserves it better. Of course, if you don’t have a dark bottle, just keep it in a dark cupboard.
The oil should last for at least a year.
How to use: just rub a small amount into affected area several times per day.
Remember: with any homemade product, you should test it on a small area first before applying to your whole body!! St. John’s Wort can interfere with prescription medications (like contraceptive pills) when taken internally. So don’t eat this oil. Not that you would anyway.