Summer Solstice is just around the corner! The last few months have been a bit dark and heavy for many of us, so I’m looking forward to celebrating the Sun, the Summer, and a little magic along the way. I’m here to introduce you to a few of my favorite midsummer herbs and share some simple ways you can bring their magic and medicine into your summertime celebrations.
St. John’s wort
The Old English word wort implies an herb with celebrated medicinal value and folklore. St. John’s wort is one of my favorite Midsummer herbs, and if you happen to have room in your garden for a veritable carpet of sunny flowers, I encourage you to bring in this beautiful plant next year!
St. John’s wort is best known as an herbal ally that lifts the mood and chases away the blues, but there’s so much more. The bright yellow flowers of this plant which have tiny perforations giving it the scientific name Hypericum perforatum are like sunshine energy just waiting to be harvested. Plucking fresh flowers and soaking them in sunflower oil for 30 days yields a ruby-red topical rub that’s soothing for skin, nerves and pain.
As an ally for our Midsummer celebrations, St. John’s wort helps drive away any lingering darkness or heaviness from winter past. For those of us who feel like we haven’t really had a proper springtime this year with quarantine restrictions in place, St. John’s wort can help usher in the warmth of the Sun and get us in the mood for longer, warmer days.
Try making a St. John’s wort oil and using it as a gentle massage oil, or as an anointing oil to mark pulse points with sunshine vibes when you need it most.
You’ll hear me talk a lot about damiana (Turnera diffusa) around Valentine’s Day each year as it’s one of my favorite love-inspiring herbal allies. But damiana has an affinity for summertime, too! Working with the unique aroma and flavor of damiana at midsummer helps us to celebrate the fertility, growth and abundance happening in the natural world. Even though we may be confined and hidden behind masks, nature is blooming with a wealth of energy and love.
For all your Summer Solstice celebrations, try making a simple Midsummer Mead. Soak 3 Tbsp. organic damiana leaf in 750mL mead. Using a quart-sized Mason jar, combine damiana and mead, soak for 8-12 days, then strain and return to the original mead bottle. You can also craft an alcohol-free version of this using sparkling apple cider.
Chamomile & calendula
Both of these flowers love to grow here in Utah with a little TLC, and they make fragrant additions to gardens and walkways.
Chamomile gets its name from the Greek for ground apple, and if you’ve ever had the blessing of smelling good quality chamomile you’ll know the scent is just like apples!
Chamomile (Chamomilla matricaria, C. recutita) and calendula (Calendula officinalis) both carry that summer energy in their bright, yellow-orange flowers.
To bring in their virtues for your honoring of the high-sun, make a cool toner that you can spray on face and skin to calm and quiet the skin when it gets hot, dry or irritated from too much sun. To make, add a handful of chamomile and calendula flowers to a quart-size Mason jar. Fill with steaming-hot water and allow to cool completely. Strain, then return to the Mason jar and refrigerate. Use within one week.
I like pouring mine into a mister bottle and taking some with me whenever I head out for a hike or a day in the sun. You can also use this toner to draw the heat out of mild sunburns. It feels amazing!
Utah is home to several species of wild rose, including Rosa canina, Rosa rugosa and Rose centifolia. Each of these roses is fragrant with folklore and medicinal uses, and they each bring a unique color, shape and aroma to wherever they grow.
I love working with wild rose at Summer Solstice as a flower to help us open up and enjoy the fullness of life.
Roses are also considered to be a yin tonic in Chinese herbalism, making them nourishing to the moist, cool, fluid parts of being—perfect for hot summer days!
Roses can be enjoyed in teas, tinctures, foods, and baths. But my favorite way to work with them is to gather and dry the flowers and toss them onto a Midsummer bonfire to scent the air and carry your sunshine-filled intentions out into the world.
Wishing you a healthy, happy, and peaceful summer.
Josh Williams is a traditionally trained clinical herbalist and owner of Greenthread Herbs, a full-service herbal apothecary in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City. www.wortcunner.com