010. Hypericum Perforatum. Perforated St. John's Wort.
Synonyma. Hypericum, Pharm. Lond.
Hypericum caule terete, alato, ramosissimo, foliis ovatis perforatis. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 1037.
Hypericum vulgare sive perforata, caule rotundo, foliis glabris. J. Bauhin III. 382.
Hypericum vulgare, Bauh. pin. 279. Raii Synop. 342.
Class Class Polyadelphia. Ord. Polyandria. L. Gen. Plant. 902.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cal. 5-phyllus. Petala 5. Nect. o. Capsula. Aiton's Hortus Kewensis.
Spec. Char. H. Floribus trigynis, cause ancipiti, fol. obtusis pellucido-punctatis.
This species of the Hypericum generally grows to the height of a foot and a half; the root is perennial, ligneous, divided and subdivided into many small branches, and covered with a straw-coloured bark; the stalks are round, smooth, of a light colour, and towards the top send off many opposite floriferous branches; the leaves are without footstalks, and placed in pairs; they are entire, oval, and beset with a great number of minute transparent vesicles, [Folia enim innumeris scatent sforaminibus, iisque adeo minutis, ut visum effugiant, nisi ipsa folia sole objecta infpiciantur. Matthiol. in Dioscord. p. 668. And these vesicles, or glands, have been found to contain an essential oil of a terebinthinate quality. Geoffroy Mat. Med. Gadd thinks that it approaches nearer to the gum-resin, Lac. Vet. Acad. Handl. 1762. p. 119.] which have the appearance of small perforations through the disc, and hence the specific name, perforatum.
The flowers are numerous, pentapetalous, terminal, of a deep yellow colour, and grow in a corymbus, or in clusters, upon short peduncles; each petal is of an irregular oval shape, and on the underside near the apex, is marked with many blackish dots; the calyx consists of five persistent acute leaves; the stamina are numerous, and commonly unite at their bases into three portions, or bundles; the antherae are yellow, and marked with a small black gland; [Mr. Curtis observes, that a little black gland on the anthera, distinguishes this species at one view. Flor. Lond.] the styli are three, and the capsule has three cells, which contain many small oblong brownish seeds. It grows commonly in woods and uncultivated grounds, and flowers in July.
Bergius describes the Hypericum quadrangulum instead of the perforatum, and thinks it the better officinal plant. "In pharmacopoliis nostris indiscrete colligunt Hypericum perforatum & quadrangulum; quod perinde quoque esse poterit, cum ambae species puncta nigrecantia gerant; quadrangulum vero plurima." [Bergius Mat. Med. 641.] Hypericum has a bitterish subastringent taste, and a sweetish smell. It was in great repute with the antients,who prescribed it in hysteria, hypochondriasis, and mania: they also imagined that it had the peculiar power of curing demoniacks, and thence obtained the name of Fuga daemonum: [Scripsere quidam Hypericum adeo odisse daemones, ut ejus suffitu statim avolent. Matthiol. l. c.] it was also recommended internally for wounds, bruises, ulcers, haemoptysis, mictus cruentus, gravel, dysentery, agues, worms, [See Haller, l. c. Alston's Mat. Med. vol. 2. p. 150. Bergius, l. c. Murray's Apparat vol. 3. p. 518.] and outwardly as an anodyne, and as a discutient and detergent. However it is now very rarely used, and its name is omitted in the Materia Medica of the last edition of the Edinburgh Pharmacopoeia. In the London Pharmacopoeia the flowers only are directed to be used, as containing the greatest proportion of the resinous oily matter in which the medical efficacy of the plant is supposed to reside. The dark puncta of the petals and the capsules, afford this essential oil, which is contained in minute vesicles, or glands, and gives a red colour to rectified spirit, and to expressed oils: the latter has been long known in the shops by the name of Oleum Hyperici. [This colouring matter gives a good die to wool. Gadd. l. c. aliique.]