History

St John’s Wort

Museum of the Order of St John Judi McGinley, Museum Assistant

We think it is fair to say that St John’s Wort is the crowing glory of our Cloister Garden. This beautiful flowering herb is easily recognizable by its vibrant yellow petals and matching yellow black tipped stamens. When crushed, the flower buds or seed pods will release a crimson red liquid which was believed by some to symbolize the spilled blood of St John the Baptist .

This unusual plant is regarded by some as a magical herb, and for centuries many believed that it had the power to ward off devils and evil spirits. During the medieval and early modern periods, branches of the herb would be gathered together and hung over doorways, tucked under pillows or strung around the neck. St John’s Wort tea was also used to treat mental illness, as it was believed that the brew’s offensive odour was strong enough to exorcise the evil spirits that were believed to plague the minds and bodies of the mentally ill.

With its calming, pain-relieving, and wound-healing properties, St John’s Wort has traditionally been regarded as a panacea. Did you know that the Knight’s of St John used the herb to treat wounds during the Crusades?

Recent research suggests that St John’s Wort extract is capable of helping to protect the nervous system against a wide range of depressive conditions, including bipolar disorder.

(left) An image of a St John’s Wort flower taken in our Cloister Garden.
(centre) Our St John’s Wort design stained glass window.
(right) A close up of one of our beautiful stone fireplaces complete with intricate St John’s Wort design.
All images © Judi McGinley

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