- St John's wort refers to the species Hypericum perforatum, also known as Tipton's Weed or Klamath weed, but, with qualifiers, is used to refer to any species of the genus Hypericum. Therefore, H. perforatum is sometimes called Common St. John's wort to differentiate it. The species of Hypericum have been placed by some in the family Hypericaceae, but more recently have been included in the
Clusiaceae. Approximately 370 species of the genus Hypericum exist worldwide with a native geographical distribution including temperate and subtropical regions of North America, Europe, Asia Minor, Russia, India and China.
- A widely used herbal that was introduced from Europe, Common St. Johnís Wort is a perennial and one of many species of Hypericum. It is, however, the only introduced and ecologically invasive species of that group in the upper Midwest. It is easy to distinguish from the native species by the black dots on the margins of its flower petals and by its clusters of multiple flowers. Common St. Johnís Wort is listed as a noxious weed in several western states.
- St. Johnís Wort has been used in folk medicine since the Middle Ages. It
was used by mouth to reduce inflammation, to ease stomach pain, to help
sleeplessness, as a diuretic, to ease nerve pain, for headaches, and to treat
anxiety. It was applied to the skin to treat bruises, muscle pain, mild
burns, smooth white spots on the skin, and for hemorrhoids. Recently,
St. Johnís Wort has been used to treat mild depression.
- Hypericin, a photochemical extracted from St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and related species, has been shown to have potent, broad spectrum antimicrobial activity. This compound is an aromatic polycyclic anthrone, a class of colored or pigmented chemical substances which have photosensitizing activity. In both in vitro (laboratory) and in vivo (animal) studies, low, non-toxic doses of hypericin significantly inhibited the replication of several viruses, including HIV, influenza A, cytomegalovirus (CMV), Herpes simplex 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Hypericin and its chemical relative, pseudohypericin, produce antiviral activity through a different mechanism of action than do AZT and other nucleoside antiviral agents. Hypericin does not appear to directly alter the activity of reverse transcriptase although it does block the formation of HIV synctium. Recent findings have shown that the antiretroviral action of this compound disrupts uncoating of the lipid envelope of both DNA and RNA viruses, thus preventing infected cells from releasing HIV copies.
- The biological activity of hypericin has ecological ramifications as well. The pigment is known to be toxic to most animals because of its photooxidative properties. The putative defense that hypericin affords Hypericum species against insectivory and pathogen attack is not its only ecological consequence. Several species of beetles (Coleoptera) in the genus Chrysolina have co-evolved with the hypericin producing plants and consequently have adapted the ability to metabolize the pigment safely. In fact, it has been demonstrated that the Chrysolina beetle uses the presence of hypericin in Hypericum plants as a way of identifying their food source.
- The active therapeutic ingredients in St. John's wort are
hypericin, pseudohypericin and xanthones, although other components may support the action of these compounds. St. John's wort extract preparations are standardized to 0.3 percent
hypericin. The typical adult dosage is 300 milligrams taken three times a day, and that means that a person taking St. John's wort gets 2.7 milligrams of hypericin a day.
- In accordance with the legend of wound healing during the Crusades, we find agreement in modern times. St. Johns Wort today has been found to be very beneficial in healing wounds and is especially good for dirty, septic wounds. St. Johns Wort has been used in case of putrid leg ulcers, that noting heals. Like the leach that was used not too many years ago for wound cleansing it does not destroy the healthy tissues and healthy cells but it cleans the dirt out of septic wounds. It helps reduce the inflammation in septic sores, in boils, in cellulite and
- St. Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum L.)
is utilized as a bulk raw material by the herbal products industry, where fresh flowers and flowering tips are manufactured into dried extract. It is not recommended as a tea or tincture
herb. Domestic demand has leveled off for retail products containing St.
Johns wort. Such products ranked as the second highest sellers in
both natural foods and mass markets in 1998.Although sales went up 500% in the summer of 1997, causing shortages of raw material, domestic production was not stimulated to a corresponding degree. A factor causing shortages in 1998 was the poor quality of South American
Hypericum, due to effects of El NiŮo. Increased imports of raw material from other
countries took up the slack, however, and the U.S. industry saw negligible price increases.
- The market for Saint Johnís Wort varies with world demand and production. Saint Johnís Wort
came into the limelight in 1997 when it was featured on the television program 20/20. The commercial
crop in Europe was less than projected and the resulting effect was that prices soared to the $20.00/lb.
(US) level within one week. Saint Johnís Wort continues to be an important herb in the North American
and European medicinal markets but prices swings are much less than in 1997. Prices in 1999 varied from
$5.00-13.00/US/lb. for small lots and were as low as $1.50/lb. US for large lots. It is imperative
that thorough market research be carried out and potential buyers be located and communicated with prior
to harvesting this crop.
- ďThe importance of St. Johnís-wort as a dietary supplement has
significantly increased in the last few years. This is evidenced by the fact that the
yearly market for the herb has topped over $210million in the United States alone and
over $570 million worldwide,Ē says Agricultural Research Service
plant physiologist Donna M. Gibson. She is in the Plant Protection Research Unit
at the U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Research Laboratory in Ithaca,
- Medical researchers, especially in the military, want to know
more about wormwoodís malaria-fighting properties. Thatís because when
duty calls U.S. troops to a tropical area, the disease is always a
potential problem. The question Duke wants to answer is exactly how the
plant produces this potentially life-saving compound.
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