Barefoot Doctor
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Making St. John's Wort Oil - A Photo Essay

July 2003

 

Last year my sister Becky and her partner bought a 42 acre farm in the hills of Wilno in Eastern Ontario, very close to where our family homestead stands, where our Great Grandmother was born and where the one room school house that she taught in still stands. My sisters and I were raised in this community and much of my family still lives close by. We all feel an attachment to the land.

Becky and John have spent the winter building, mostly on their own (but with some help from family and friends! We are now window-framing-hardwood-floor-installing experts!), a beautiful log home, and they live there with their 5 month old daughter, 2 dogs and 2 cats.

I was delighted when Becky asked me to help her identify some of the herbs in her meadows (or back 40 as she calls it!) and give her some ideas what to do with them

This is Becky and John's view from their porch. How lovely.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

St. John's Wort is distinctive because of it's small, star-like yellow flowers. It grows about knee height and blooms in mid July. To check to be sure you have St. John's Wort pluck a leaf and hold it up to the light. You will be able to see many little dots or pores that hold the St. John's Wort oil that we will be extracting.

 

Preparing the St. John's Wort Oil

Becky and I decided to get our children involved in the Harvest. This is a fast and easy project and my boys just love this hands on stuff.

 

Here I am harvesting.

We harvest all of the aerial parts of the plant - that means anything that grows above the ground. So don't pull the roots, just leave them. I usually just cut the plant where the green leaves start and if there is a woody stem below I just leave that.

Along with many other herbalists and in line with aboriginal tradition I also either ask permission of each plant to cut or as I'm cutting I let the plant know we are going to be using it medicinally. This is simply respectful and thankful for the role that the plant will play in our life.

Here is Becky and Emily with a handful of St. John's Wort - this is about how much we will need to make 1/2 L of St. John's Wort oil which is lots for both of our families for a year.
5 year old Alden cuts the St. John's Wort into a Jar. We use all of the leaves and all of the flowers but compost the woody stems.
Here Alden is packing the herb tightly into the jar while mommy watches.
8 year old Jacob pours in the olive oil until it reaches the top of the jar.

The St. John's Wort Oil should be left in a sunny window for 2-6 weeks or until the oil from the pores in the leaves of the plant is drawn into the olive oil and the olive oil turns a reddish/brown colour - then it is ready to be strained and used!

 

Because of the pain-relieving qualities of St. John's Wort oil this is a nice gift for moms-to-be. It is wonderful to put on a sore perineum for a few days after baby is born.

It's also nice to have in your first aid kit for any bumps or bruises or scrapes for your wee ones.

Here we all are with our two small bottles of hypericum or St. John's Wort oil. What a fun project for a summer's afternoon - and what a lovely way for the children to learn about the plants that surround them.

 

Now the next time I need to pull out the first aid kit - everyone will understand where the "ouchy oil" came from!

 

 

 

Wonder Child Conference

Whitby, Ontario

September 12, 13, 2003