Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Dried St John's Wort

Ever since the mid-90's when 60 Minutes did their report on St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), the way we use it has been scrutinized.  At the time it was easily available dried in teas and capsules.  There were also tinctures, but at least where we are, tinctures were not well known, understood, or used.   At the time, all the talk was about standardized capsules, and hypericin was the single component that was sought after.
Beautifully dried St John's wort.  It started blooming when we didn't have time to do anything other than gather it.  Now we have time to work with the fresh flowers, but we got to wondering about how it would work in different mediums - like oil and alcohol.
  Most of what we'd learned before (and after) that point was that plants are more than the sum of their parts.  The best way I've ever heard it explained comes from Daniel Gagnon of Herbs, Etc., who during a talk at a conference explained that - paraphrasing here - we should view plants as a symphony, and that all of the instruments play an important part to create the full sound.  We have barely scratched the surface in learning the components contained in plants and how they work together to buffer side effects or increase actions, for instance.
Somewhere along the line, dried SJW has become viewed as inferior to the point of almost useless by some herbalists.  I thought I'd do a little experiment.

We filled baby food jars loosely with dried botanicals.  It is mostly flowers and buds.
 We tend to view the sticky red resinous dye that the fresh plant leaves on our fingers as a sign of activity.  Here's what happens with dried SJW in alcohol and olive oil.

One jar was then filled with 150 proof vodka and the other filled with olive oil.
 I did not check with water as a menstruum, but may do that and add a picture tomorrow.

At the end of the day, this is how they looked.  3 days later, the alcohol jar looks like beet juice (not shown).
The second day I set the jar containing oil out in the sun.  It is very hot here.  90's, and the deck has no shade.  This is how the oil looks three days later.  I will continue to leave it outside to see if time makes a difference, but I don't expect it to.
As with all things, a lot depends on the conditions.  For many, many years dried SJW has been used.  This shows me that the hypericin flavinoid that *I think* is represented by the red dye is not oil soluble when the plant is dried.  It is soluble in alcohol, though.  It has been used in teas for years, so I will assume that there must have been some activity happening in order for people to continue using it for all these years.
This isn't scientific.  It was just a fun experiment that Molly and I did to see what would happen, and now we're sharing it with you.

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