Hypericum perforatum is Greek for "over an apparition." It was believed that evil spirits disliked the plant's odor and thus could be warded away (1). Hypericum is a perennial aromatic shrub with bright yellow flowers that bloom from June to September (2). The flowers are said to be at their brightest and most abundant around June 24th, the day traditionally believed to be the birth-

From Forensic Science and Medicine: Herbal Products: Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology, Second Edition

Edited by: T. S. Tracy and R. L. Kingston © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

day of John the Baptist (3). Also, the red spots on the leaves are symbolic of the blood of St. John (1). The plant is native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, and now also found in Australia, North and South America, and South Africa (2). It grows in the dry ground of fields, roadsides, and woods. The commercial products are prepared from the dried flowering tops and leaves that are harvested just before or during the flowering period (2).

St. John's wort has been described in medical literature for thousands of years, including the writings of Hippocrates (4). Historically, St. John's wort has been used to treat neurological and psychiatric disturbances (anxiety, insomnia, bed-wetting, irritability, migraine, excitability, exhaustion, fibrosi-tis, hysteria, neuralgia, and sciatica), gastritis, gout, hemorrhage, pulmonary disorders, and rheumatism, and has been used as a diuretic (2). Some forms of the herb have been used topically as an astringent and to treat blisters, burns, cuts, hemorrhoids, vitiligo, neuralgias, inflammation, insect bites, itching, redness, sunburn, and wounds. Oral doses of 300 mg of Hypericum extract three times daily for periods of 4 to 6 weeks is a typical dosing regimen (2).

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