St. John’s Wort

I have found the topical uses for most plants are quite fragmented and, frankly, lacking a lot of the time. Even the most robust Materia Medica often has a maximum of about three sentences on the topical uses and preparations for a given plant, and the information is so baked into the content it can be almost impossible to tease it out enough to hold it on its own. So I’m embarking on an attempt to compile information from all my sources on some of our favorite plant allies’ topical uses on their own!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

Plant Profile & Topical Uses of St. John’s Wort

Common Names: St. John’s Wort, St. Joan’s Wort

Botanical Name: Hypericum perforatum (Hypericum=”To place above the altar”, Perforatum=perforation)

Parts Used: Fresh Flowering Tops (top 4-6″)


  • Generally considered warming & drying; may have a hydrating “oily” effect on the nerves (corrective to dry/atrophy)
  • Likened to “Bottled Sunshine”

Primary Actions:

  • Nervine Sedative & Trophorestorative
  • Astringent & Vulnerary
  • Anodyne


  • Nervous System
  • Skin
  • Spirit

Types of Topical Preparations:

“It is to be considered with all chronic pain in conjunction with emotional and nervous exhaustion, physical and mental weakness or pain with a sharp shooting characteristic sensation, indicative of nerve pain.”

Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth, Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner, about St. John’s Wort

Topical Indications

🏡 Nervous System Support 🏡

St. John’s Wort has an affinity for the nervous system on both the physiological and psychological levels. It may be used for generalized neuralgia (nerve pain), has been examined for use with painful diabetic neuropathy, and is specifically indicated for injuries to the spinal cord and nerves, including the sciatic nerve. St. John’s Wort is very well known for its use in cases of anxiety and depression, and more specifically in cases where there are feelings of isolation, disconnect, and lack of worthiness. While I believe this is best understood for the oral applications of SJW, I can personally attest to the regular use of SJW oil topically to be extremely beneficial for precisely this flavor of depression and anxiety.

🏡 Skin 🏡

Indicated for use when skin tissue is red, inflamed, and painful. Beneficial for taking the heat out of burns including sunburns and radiation burns, herpetic lesions in the case of cold sores and trigeminal nerve pain in the case of shingles. Indicated for puncture wounds, lacerations, skin ulcers, and heat & humidity induced rashes.

🏡 Spiritual 🏡

St. John’s Wort is decidedly an herb of the sun, what with coming into full glory on or near the Summer Solstice and all. Here we see ancient uses across many cultures for purposes such as protection, warding off evil, stepping into the sun to claim your truth, and moving stagnant energy (in the form of anger) through the liver and gall bladder to be processed and released.

How to use St.John’s Wort Topically

A hand holding two glass bottles with black lids full of a red liquid. The liquid is St. John's Wort infused olive oil, made with the intention of topical use medicinally. You can see a small portion of a tattoo on the inside of the wrist of the person holding the bottles.

🏡 Lower Back Pain 🏡

St John’s Wort has been shown to assist with relief from sciatica through both its affinity for the nerve itself, as well as acting on surrounding muscle pain and/or bruising. I personally apply liberally at the first sign of lower back pain with great, and almost immediate, results. I also love to combine SJW with mugwort at my moon time for lower back pain combined with related back and abdominal discomfort.

🏡 Sleep support 🏡

This one is more of a byproduct of a regulated nervous system, since the combination of soothing touch and SJW’s sunny disposition is very supportive for frayed nerves. I have found the regular use (or not so regular use, as the case may be at times) of St. John’s Wort oil to be one of my most noticeably effective remedies for the nervous exhaustion and overwhelm that accompanies a hectic lifestyle combined with chronic illness. I find it best to apply in small amounts more frequently, mostly for the fact that I find the idea of “self-care,” as it has come to be defined to be trite. When you can, take a bath or shower and apply SJW oil from head to toe afterward, but if pressed for time it is better to do a little bit here and there than it is to skip it all together because you couldn’t (or didn’t, take your pick) carve out dedicated time. Start with a bottle by your bed or your favorite chair and begin training yourself to do your feet at bedtime, and go from there.

*Pro Mom Tip: start oiling your kid’s feet at bedtime! Two things will happen: they won’t let you forget, and you will notice that they fall asleep better/faster and you will become very attached to that outcome very quickly!*

🏡 After Sun Care 🏡

Apply liberally to mild sunburns. If you were caught off guard on the first warm day of the year and didn’t get to your preferred method of sunburn prevention quite soon enough, and there’s just a touch of heat/redness in the skin when you get home, SJW should help.
*Caution: can cause photosensitivity, so this is NOT for use BEFORE sun exposure! Also, please use common sense and don’t play around with kids and sun exposure/risk of severe sunburns.

🏡 Wound Healing 🏡

St. John’s Wort is the one to reach for in the case of a deeper puncture wound, in place of other herbs whose skin proliferation may work too quickly and risk trapping infection. The astringency helps to tighten up the skin while the vulnerary action works to regenerate the skin cells and the anodyne effect eases the pain of trauma. Also a wonderful remedy to be used for diaper rash and cradle cap, as well as other highly inflamed and angry skin conditions.

🏡 All over body-oiling 🏡

With all of the above said, I say go ahead and slather it on! I like to oil my earlobes down to my collarbone, and the back of my neck frequently throughout the day. The sense of touch, combined with SJWs affinity for the nervous system is incredibly soothing. I liken my relationship with body oils these days to that of someone who loves lip balm. I have a bedside bottle, a coffee table bottle, a kitchen island bottle, a school desk bottle, and a car bottle. If I lose my car bottle and have to move the coffee table bottle to it’s place, I’m a complete mess until I replace the coffee table bottle.

In all seriousness, though, the goal here is to use body-oiling as one of multiple tools in your repertoire for fostering a sense of safety in your body (nervous system regulation.) You pretty much can’t get this wrong! If you’ve ever applied lotion to your skin, you already know enough about body oiling to get started. Check out my post on herbal body oiling for a basic overview of why body oiling is beneficial and how to get started. To grab a bottle of your very own, head over to the listing for my super potent and high-quality infused St. John’s Wort Body Oil. I make this incredibly special medicine every year around the Summer Solstice using the fresh flowering tops & organic extra virgin olive oil, which I then allow to sit until the Autumn Equinox before straining right in time for the sun’s descent through the autumn into winter.


May cause photosensitivity, both orally and topically; emmenagogue & abortifacient properties make it contraindicated during pregnancy; is known to have negative interactions with a wide variety of pharmaceuticals from blood thinners to contraceptives, so be sure to consult your medical doctor before using St. John’s Wort.

These statements are solely for informational purposes and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Any recommended products and the information provided on this website are not meant to diagnoseβ€š treat or cure any disease or medical condition. It is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult your doctor before starting any exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using these or any similar products. 


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

  3. Handcrafted Healing Herbal Oils  – Online Course with Kami McBride
  4. Popham, Sajah – Materia Medica Monthly Program
  5. Energetic Herbalism“>Maier, Kat; Energetic Herbalism, pp 300-304