Why (Or Why Not) Drink St. John's Wort Tea
St. John's Wort is one of the most popular medicinal herbs used around the world, especially as a natural anti-depressant. It certainly has one of the most peculiar names. "Wort" is from the Old English "wyrt", which simply means "plant" or "herb". How did it get such a funny name? If you rub the petals, a blood red stain is produced. This was thought to be the blood of John the Baptist, who was beheaded by King Herod at the whim of his daughter. St. John's Wort is also in full bloom on St. John's Day, the Catholic name for Midsummer's day, the longest day of the year. As the herb gives kindly effects, so it was thought that it must have had close association with a saint.
Obviously, St. John's Wort has been growing long before Christianity and been used centuries before Christ was ever opened His big mouth. There is some theories that St. John's Wort might actually have been the mythical "eye of newt" that was supposedly the favorite ingredient of witches' brews. Some St. John's Wort specimens do have small eye-like markings. When Christianity became the norm and pagans were seen as being from the devil, just being able to identify medicinal herbs could get you killed.
The good old Greeks knew a good wort when they saw one, and have been recorded using St. John's Wort to cast out evil spirits. Now, if you've ever had or are struggling with major depression, evil spirits are a walk in the park by comparison. Just like that line in Beetlejuice, a depressed person can say proudly, "I've seen The Exorcist about a hundred times and it keeps getting funnier every time I see it!" The Greeks called the herb "hypericum". Just not as catchy as St. John's Wort, is it? But the scientific name for St. John's Wort is Hypericum perforatum. The herb was usually soaked in wine.
The Greeks also knew their Hypericum could help fight fevers, clean out wounds and help heal minor burns. And recent scientists have proven that it has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also is thought to help serotonin linger in the brain. Depression and some forms of headache are thought to be greatly affected by imbalances and extremely low levels of serotonin.
Today, St. John's Wort comes in many forms, including ready made tea bags and loose leaf teas. Often, they will be mixed with valerian, another well-known herb that works well on minor depression and sleep problems associated with emotional upset. In Germany, St. John's Wort is a prescribed medication. It comes in tinctures, ointments, bags of loose herbs, capsules and tea bags.
As A Tea
But we don't care about it's medicinal past - how is it as a tea? If you drink tea for the sheer pleasure of it, you will greatly disappointed by the taste of St. John's Wort teas. Quite frankly, they taste like dirt. If you are only interested in the medicinal benefits, then expect it to taste like medicine.
In order to get the medicinal benefits, you are to drink 1-3 cups a day for about six weeks, then give your body (and taste buds) a break for two weeks, then start again. Brown sugar or honey can make it almost tolerable.
St. John's Wort is powerful medicine. Before you drink St. John's Wort tea, ask your doctor's permission first. St. John's Wort has negative side effects for people on necessary medications. Do not take St. John's Wort in any way shape or form if you are on:
- antidepressants (they will cancel each other out. I'm not kidding.)
- blood-thinning medications like Wafarin
- oral contraceptives
- immunosuppressive drugs
- asthma medications
- blood-pressure medicines
Does Wort Work?
If you are in the clear, then drink only one cup for a few days until your body adjusts to it. You might wind up with cramps and diarrhea otherwise. If you break out into a funny rash, get a sudden headache or nausea, stop drinking the tea and call your doctor. I told you this was powerful medicine. Don't experiment with it.
But how well does it work on depression, as it's highly touted to, even in magazines such as Psychology Today?
Well, it depends on the kind of depression you have. Unfortunately, the word "depression" is used as an umbrella term from all kinds of sad emotions as well as very serious, life-threatening illnesses.
If you do not have a history of depression the disease, or have NEVER been diagnosed with depression, but just feel low, sad, blue and listless due to bad news or sudden life changes, then St. John's Wort might help for you (emphasis on the might).
This might sound as if I sniff at St. John's Wort, but I don't. Before I was medically diagnosed with major depression, I did try St. John's Wort tea. One day, as I was drinking a cup, my alcoholic roommate suddenly went into a maniacal rant. The fact that I didn't kill him or even raise my voice means I respect St. John's Wort tea very highly. It's too bad my now ex-roommate never tried it.