St. John's Wort Solstice Oil
One of my annual solstice rituals is to prepare St. John’s Wort infused oil on or around the solstice when the sun is high in the sky. The small delicate yellow flowers of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) are powerful medicine. I like to call it “the sunshine plant” as it usually blooms around the summer solstice and it is known to lift the spirits when taken internally. St. John’s Wort is revered for it’s antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. The topical oil is a well-known healer that has been used for centuries to treat wounds, burns, sunburns, bruises, eczema, and soothe inflamed and dry skin. I love to use the rich oil as face and body oil and as an ingredient in salves and balms.
The summer solstice on June 21st is the pinnacle of fertility and abundance in the natural world. The word “solstice” comes from the latin sol meaning sun and stice, from the verb sistere meaning to stand still. It marks the longest day of the year and the official start of summer. Like the bees and butterflies that fly from flower to flower, it is challenging to concentrate and keep to our daily routines in this big time of transition. This time of year, I just want to drop what I am doing, run to the waterfalls and plunge in. It is a time to embrace transition and be present to witness the new life bursting all around us from baby spotted fawns and fuzzy goslings to the world full of green life and colorful flowers outside our door.
At the solstice, my garden is a riot of color dripping with peonies, roses, irises, lemon balm and mint. I relish going out in the morning to sit in my garden, slowly drink my coffee and soak in the sunshine and the plants. My kids and I love to carefully select and harvest flowers to arrange into bountiful bouquets for our table. We harvest plants to make botanical medicine, like the precious St. John’s Wort. The earth truly gives us abundant gifts for our spirit in this time of change. We walk barefoot again in the grass full of healing plantain, tickling our toes in clover and yarrow as the sun warms our faces. The delicious taste of the first red strawberries melt in our mouths. The honeyed scent of flowers floats through the air alongside the layered sounds of birdcalls.
The summer solstice is known as the ancient pagan holiday of Litha or Midsummer. Ancient cultures around the world have celebrated the summer solstice, which has carried into modern day traditions all characterized by the abundance of the season. The site of the prehistoric monumental rock formation known as Stonehenge in England is thought to have been the site of Druid solstice festivals and is still host to solstice revelers from near and far. In midsummer traditions throughout Europe, bonfires are lit, flower crowns adorn heads and rivers become full of floating buds. In Ancient Kemet or modern day Egypt, the solstice marks the time of year when the Nile River floods irrigating crops, marking a time of fertility and abundance. Many indigenous peoples of North America, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Sioux, hold a ceremonial Sundance marked by prayers, fasting and dancing to celebrate the Great Spirit and this time of renewal for people and the earth. A way to celebrate the solstice is to light a fire, bonfire or a candle to celebrate the sun. The fire is a symbol of transformation and it helps us ease into change.
You can recognize St. John's Wort by its five petaled golden yellow flowers with numerous yellow stamens that grow in small clusters on branched stems. One way to make sure it is the right plant is to pick a flower and press it between your fingers. If it leaves a reddish purple stain on your skin, it’s St. John’s Wort. There are also small dots on its flowers, which are glands that house the rich medicinal oils of this plant. This is one of the botanicals that I recommend using fresh for infusion due to the vibrant potency of its oils. During your infusion, you will notice the oil turn a deep shade of red as the plant’s medicine imbues its rich radiance.
Infused oils can be made with fresh or dried flowers (see Fresh & Dried Botanical Infused Oil recipe), but St. John’s Wort is best prepared with fresh flowers for their potency. This oil is a staple in our household and I like to make in larger quantities if I can. If you have access to enough St. John’s Wort, you can scale the recipe up. The alcohol in this recipe not only acts as a preservative that is necessary when using fresh plant material but also helps draw the medicinal properties further out of the plant during infusion.
Saint John's Wort Oil Recipe
2 cups fresh St. John’s Wort flowers
2 cups carrier oil of choice (olive, sunflower, grapeseed or jojoba)
1 tsp 190 proof alcohol
Responsibly harvest roughly 2 cups of St. John’s Wort flower clusters on a sunny day if possible. If you can’t find enough flower tops, you can use the woody stems as well.
Let the flowers air dry for 6 to 8 hours to remove excess moisture.
Put the flowers into a pint size glass jar and cover with oil up to neck of jar. Add 1 tsp alcohol. Tamp down the flowers with a spoon and top off with oil as needed. Close jar with lid and place in a sunny spot inside your house.
Shake the jar daily and check to make sure the plants are fully covered with oil. You can open and tamp down plants as necessary. Let the oil infuse for 4 to 6 weeks.
When ready, strain the oil and compost the botanicals. Bottle and label the oil. If kept out of direct sunlight, will stay fresh for up to one year.
Use the oil directly on face and body or fold into lotions and salves. Check out recipes for Essential Lotion and Jewelweed Salve on this site.
Happy Solstice! I hope you can soak in the radiance of the sun and bury your nose in the sweetest flower you can find.