Here comes Summer?

Finally some fine summer sunshine to bring on and dry off the herbs.  Harvested quite a lot of my St John’s Wort yesterday, chopped it up and got it tincturing in 45% alcohol.  Pleasant rich smell not totally unlike tea.

I wrote about some of St John’s Wort’s  medicinal qualities back in February.  As it flowers about this time each year, it is associated with St John the Baptist whose day is 1st July.  When we adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, instead of the Julian calendar which had been running for >1500 years, we “lost” 10 days so maybe St John’s Wort still thinks today is 1st July!

St John’s Wort is a very Solar herb as befits John the Baptist who was, arguably, a sun hero, beheaded and sacrificed at the Summer Solstice.  St John’s Wort commemorates this by appearing to run with blood when picked, damaged or aged.  The bright yellow flowers with crimson stamens turn red when steeped in oil in sunlight – St John’s Wort infused oil is very red and very healing.  It can help soothe sunburn after the initial burn has been cooled down with Aloe vera gel or continuous old water (oil applied immediately to a burn will keep the heat in and make matters worse).  In some individuals, St John’s Wort in quantity can make the skin too sensitive to light (photosensitising) but this is not normally a problem with moderate consumption of St John’s Wort tea (say up to 3 cups a day?) or Hypericum tincture (up to 20mL per week?).

If St John is a sacrificial summer king then he needs a twin or tanist.  Jesus is the Christian sun hero, having his feast at the Winter Solstice.  See my discussion of solar heroes according Robert Graves on my Trees as Healers blog.

So St John’s Wort has thrived and flowered at the right time despite the rain – taller than last year.  My Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) in my front garden has successfully come into flower this week with no mildew problems like in previous years.  Being a damp-loving Queen of the (Water) Meadow it has obviously thrived on the rain and smells wonderfully of bitter almonds.

Again despite the rain, my Rosa alba flowered bang on time – if not early – May 30th.  New flower buds are coming forth so I might get a longer flowering season than the usual June-that’s-it-mate!

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About donaldpurves

Traditional Herbalist since 1989, qualified originally with National Institute of Medical Herbalists (Tutorial Course, School of Herbal Medicine/Phytotherapy), joined Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners in 2011. University lecturer in Herbal Medicine since 2005. Born and brought up in the Scottish Borders. Higher Education at University of York (Biology 1980) and Scottish School of Herbal Medicine (MSc Herbal Medicine 2003). Married to Rukshana Afia, an artist working with drawing, textiles and ceramics. Passionate about environmental, economic and social justice.
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One Response to Here comes Summer?

  1. Lucinda says:

    That is fascinating about the parallels between the John the Baptist story and the pagan sun heroes.
    I am behind with gathering my St John’s as it’s been so wet every time I have thought about it but tomorrow we are due some sun so I’ll be attempting it then!
    Thanks for such an interesting post.

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