What is Hypericum?

Helen Krasner

Hypericum perfoliatum, often simply called hypericum, is more commonly known as St. John's Wort. It is used as both an herbal and homeopathic remedy. The hypericum plant has small yellow flowers and leaves, and grows wild in woods and along the borders of fields and meadows. It is commercially grown and cultivated in many gardens in Britain, Europe, Asia, and North America. The plant is, however, poisonous to farm animals if eaten in large amounts.

Hypericum perforatum, also called St. John's wort.
Hypericum perforatum, also called St. John's wort.

In its herbal form, hypericum perfoliatum is generally available as a pill, an infusion, or as a liquid extract. It typically is easily obtainable over the counter in many countries. The homeopathic version, called hypericum, is also popular.

Hypericum is sometimes used in alternative medicine to ease toothache pain.
Hypericum is sometimes used in alternative medicine to ease toothache pain.

As an herbal remedy, hypericum is a popular treatment for mild depression and is said by many people to be effective and without the side effects of prescribed antidepressants. Its efficacy has not been completely proven, but some studies have shown it to work well for many people. Some researchers, however, question whether it does all people say it will, and it typically is not effective against severe depression.

Homeopathic dilutions of hypericum are made from the whole, fresh, flowering plant. The plant is chopped and pounded to a pulp before being mixed with alcohol and left for eight days; then, it is made into homeopathic pills. In this form, it is primarily used to treat nerve injuries of all types, its principle action being on the central nervous system. Homeopathic versions are sometimes used to alleviate depression, and it is said to be useful in warding off drowsiness.

As with most homeopathic remedies, a variety of other symptoms may be helped or cured by use of this remedy. Generally, these symptoms are related to nerve injury, including concussions, neuralgia, eye injuries, dental discomfort, toothaches, back pain, and puncture wounds caused by nails, splinters or bites. It has also been successfully used to treat nausea, late menstrual cycles accompanied by headaches, diarrhea, and nerve pain in the rectum.

Hypericum can also be useful for longer-term pain or injuries, particularly if the pain involves trauma to nerves. These may include injury during childbirth, perhaps after an epidural or a delivery aided by forceps. It can also help relieve back pain from falls that have caused lasting pain and soreness. Overall, it can be a useful remedy that might be worth trying in the case of pain or nerve injury of any type.

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