Thursday, July 24, 2014

St. John Saves The Day

I'll admit it, I've been in a rotten mood lately.
It's the same old pressures of summer livin' out here, about which I feel like I've written at length already, but which right now are just the reality of my day-to-day.

Whenever I get this way, it's important for me to remember to just ground out, to go outside, make something...

Sometimes I just need to actually get my fingers in the soil, at others collecting plants and making medicines, or just cooking for folks.

Looking for our first eggs, shaking down tiny, cherry-sized plums from the trees into a basket, planting new starts and seeds for winter greens, all suffices well.

These little projects take enough concentration to let me focus and drift away at the same time, allowing for that hard-to-define mental space in which I can relax, unwind and let go. It can be hard to muster the inspiration at first, but it's always worth it in the end.

The other day I was biking home from work I noticed that the bright yellow suns of St. John's Wort had finally opened on the one patch here on the island I've seen. It just so happens to be close to the edge of someone else's yard, or let's be honest, halfway in it, but I've been known to nip a few along my way and that particular day, was struck by the idea that making this particular medicine would benefit my spirit and provide me with tincture and skin oil in the future.

St. John's Wort is one of those plants I feel really connected to. For a number of years now, I've used it as my main beauty moisturizer, thanks to an introduction from my friend Amber, who makes and sell gallons and gallons of the stuff. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Never one for much of cosmetics and fancy products, a simple oil is the perfect thing for my body: it's nourishing, healing, rich and delicious and comprises of exactly two ingredients. Word to the wise though: it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

As for tincturing St. John's Wort: there's no better cure for the blues in all of the herbal realm, in my opinion, but again, a word of warning: it can reduce the effectiveness of your hormonal birth control.

Having never made the oil before, I tapped into some instruction and instinct and now have two jars of golden sun liquid on the windowsill. It's so easy, chop a little, bruise a little, cover in oil, set in the sun…

There they sit now, serving as a good reminder of the power of making a little something for yourself amidst the madness of daily life.

What have you been making?

ps. Sauerkraut making is a perfectly grounding experience ;)


  1. Those St John's wort blossoms are huge! I used to collect them in Wisconsin and they were so tiny....but still made an excellent tincture. Just like sunshine itself!

    1. It's the garden variety and sadly much less potent than the wild one. But it's all I got. Someday I will have an intense herb garden with tiny, medicinal St. Johns…<3

  2. mmmm. looks peaceful and inspiring. I have been freezing berries like mad. Have some stuff for kraut in the fridge that I have been meaning to get to for over a week (I think my procrastination is that I don't have the right utensils, and have been enjoying some hemp pesto that I LOVE. Need to make some more of that freeze a couple and keep one in the fridge for EVERYTHING :)

  3. I also made a vegan gluten free lasagna that used squash as the noodles and cashew butter as the cheese. It need some more tweaking.

  4. I've used St. John's Wort to fight the blues, but only in the form of tea, not oil. How do you use the oil?

    I find it so hard to do such activities, make something for myself when I'm in that place and even such loving tasks seem daunting. But it is true that it is the only remedy! I've been enjoying gardening lately to clear my mind and not be thinking about anything but the blooms, the wind and the tool in my hand.

    Much love to you in the coming weeks!

  5. Milla, I have felt the same way too! i have been so busy the whole summer. Always panicking about unfinished things. Going in to the woods has been a therapy for me and gathering herbs. Few days i have been drying chamomile and rose petals, will mix them later with lavender leaves and flowers. St. John's Wort is like a sunshine in a bowl, looks so incredibly pretty. I am lucky to be able to pick the flowers from my parents yard.

  6. Oh man, I feel ya! I love summer with my entire being, but this time of year I'm always feeling a little tired out by all the activity. You are wise for tuning into this, and for making the effort to pause and self-nurture.

    What beautiful yellow blossoms!


  7. Beautiful! Make sure all the plant material is under the oil & there are no air bubbles or it will cause mold!

  8. Did you also know that SJW oil is a) great for soothing sunburn and b) for relieving nerve pain? I love it!
    P.S. My daughter is also called Milla :))

  9. ooooooh that oil looks good. I've been on a new recipe trying frenzy. Pinterest has come in handy for something afterall! I seem obsessed with food at the moment. I'm glad you found a way to nurture yourself, balancing focus and peace and industry. x

  10. Summersadness, summermadness... Jep, kulkee mulla nimellä Kesäkiukku. Ärsyttää kaikki; juupajokelaisturistien kiljuvat lapset, pölyävät kadut, iänikuinen säästä puhuminen (joka muuten on epäinhimillinen, +30 ja "pilvenhattaraa ei näy). No, onneksi tää ei iänkaiken kestä. Mulla on jonkinlainen kirjoitelmakin aiheesta kesken, ja kesken ehkä jääkin, just siks että se jurppii niin paljon, hah. Yritin itse rauhoittua ompelemalla; levitin kaikki kankaat ympäri lattioita ja sain aikaseksi hirveän sotkun, mutta en yhtään toteuttamiskelpoista ideaa...että se siitä.

    Ei mitään hajua mikä tuo keltainen kukkakaunotar on, mutta ihanalta näyttää ja kuulostaa nuo sun "keitokset" ...tsemppiä sinne Millanen, kyllä se syksy sieltä saapuu ja palauttaa asiat tolalleen ja rauhan maahan..I hope.

    Muuten, jos törmäät nuoreen naiseen nmimeltä Anni Kytömäki, suosittelen lukaisemaan sellaisen pikkukirjoitelman (yli 600sivua) kun Kultarinta. Suomen sotien väliseen aikaan sijoittuva romaani, historia/folkloristiikka/metsänrakastamiskirja. Mikään ei toimi kesäkiukkuun paremmin kun lukea kymmenittäin sivuja metsässä kulkemisesta..

  11. I've been wandering around a lot lately, searching for St John's Wort too, but didn't find any yet.
    I'm drying a lot of herbs that I have found it the woods to make herbal/medicinal tea. And I'm also wanting to make a plantain salve, that would help healing my psoriasis.

  12. Hey, well done for the St John's wort oil. I remember my grandfather used to bribe us grandchildren with a few pennies to gather a bag full of blossoms. He also like Linden to make tea and mullein for...I can't remember... maybe his arthritis? Anyway, I pinch a little blooming sprig of linden on my birthday at RBG Kew earlier this month and stuck it in my wallet. It reminds me of him. :D Hope you're having a lovely summer on the West Coast. Chloe tells me it's been raining in Van. Good for the garden.

  13. Mäkikuisma, tietenkin! Noi kukat vaan oli niin suuria sun kuvissa etten tajunnut :)..


  14. This post and comment thread is reminding me of all the things I just missed out on this year -- the SJW bushes in my street all lost their blooms at least a week ago, and I didn't find any good trees for linden blossom until they were all finished either! But today I bottled some blackberry vinegar made from some berries I picked a week ago. And flatbread, I'm always making flatbread.

  15. Such a lovely practice! How beautiful that you can just harvest these beauties! After the ever -increasing heat over here I would love the milder pacific northwest temperatures right now.

  16. those are some plump st. john's wort flowers!!! wow! they must be a slightly different species than the klamath weed we have here in norcal. do you know if it's different? our flowers are smaller and have thinner petals. or maybe everything is just happier in the magical pacific northwest.

    i've been making sourdough! finally! after totally screwing up the starter you sent me a few years ago, a friend recently brought me a jarfull, and held my hand during my first bread baking and hurrah! more carbs than i need or know what to do with! woohoo!

    seriously tho...i'm curious about the midsummer bum out that you've written of this year and before. aside from the pressure and tourists and lack of alone it seasonal somehow? the opposite of what folks get in the winter? would love to hear more about in a phonecall...yeah!

  17. I was also going to comment that those flowers are huge. Almost believed that what I suspect to be St. John's Wort is actually something else, but then I read the other comments that show there is another tinier variety. That one (tiny, wild variety) is very common in Romania and everyone has the tea in their kitchen.
    And thank you for linking to the sauerkraut post. I have been trying kimchi recipes this spring and summer because I want to always have some sort of fermented food every day available at home, for the known health reasons.

  18. i think i need to plant some St John's wort! beautiful blooms!

  19. I found you via 'cozythings', read the 'knowing me, knowing you' section and felt, strangely, really calm after reading it. I love your philosophy, the place you live is breathtaking, the way you look at life, how you want to live it and do so. I imagine you as being a very calming person to be around. I haven't had my tarot cards out in ages, I tend towards Buddhism but not totally just parts of it resonate, I craft but my old hands are beginning to let me down after years of handwriting, keyboard operating, knitting, art journalling, patchwork and crochet, so that I don't do as much as I would like. I read voraciously, spend far too much of my meagre pension on books to read, journals to write in and pretty pens with coloured inks. I can't use natural medicines for reasons I won't bore you with, but loved reading about yours. So thank you.
    From Edwina, an old(er) lady living 'twixt woods and coast in Norfolk, England.

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