Many people feel anxious when they’re under stress, but for approximately 40 million Americans, anxiety is more than a passing state of emotion. Shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, dizziness, upset stomach, tension, irritability, sleep difficulties, memory problems, and feelings of dread are common daily experiences of people who suffer from chronic anxiety. For those who consult a physician, the first suggestion is usually drugs: tranquilizers (benzodiazepines), often coupled with antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). But these medications come with a long list of unpleasant side effects, and have a significant risk of dependence.
With the warm days of summer approaching, I begin to look for the sunny beauty of the humble little flowering plant, St. John’s wort(Hypericum perforatum). Called St. John’s wort because it blooms around the feast day of John the Baptist (June 24th), the plant grows prolifically in southern Oregon, particularly along roadsides and in meadows. The bright yellow five-petaled flower resembles a halo; when pressed, the flowers release a crimson liquid that symbolized to early Christians the spilled blood of their beloved St. John.