Friday, August 1, 2008

Not Meant to Have St John's Wort Oil this Year!

On the Elder Flower Adventure, I started picking St John's Wort to make oil. This is one of my favorite things to do every summer. The flowers are a beautiful shiny buttercup yellow and the oil of the plant a blood red color. When the flowers and flower buds are infused in oil, the oil turns a brilliant ruby red color. I like to use the oil in the lip balms I make as it is good for sun protection and soothing and healing to the lips, especially if they get chapped in the winter.

But I'll have to get some oil from friends this year. I started off well with the flowers I first picked, adding them to jojoba oil. But after a few days I noticed it wasn't turning the red color it should but was rather a pinky color. It had been stormy so I hadn't put it out in the full sun as I usually do so I figured it just didn't get enough heat and I moved it.

I kept picking flowers and one of the wonderful things about St John's Wort is that it pops up all over! I found it on the farm where I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I asked the farmer if I could pick the St John's wort and he didn't even know what it was, so I pointed out all the beautiful plants growing in the field (alongside lots of red clover) and he said I was welcome to whatever I wanted to pick. I also found it in my yard (where I'm always careful to mow around it) and on the golf course.

I was golfing one evening and came around a corner to a spot that had elder flower, which of course I now see everywhere, several large mullein plants and St John's Wort. I was ready to stop the game and go pick herbs, but the women I was golfing with didn't understand why I would go want to pick some weeds and I couldn't hold the game up!

But I digress.....As I picked new St John's Wort, I started a new jar of oil in case the pink one was just ruined. Using organic olive oil this time, it turned a nice red and I was happily adding flowers as I found them to my oil mixture out in the sun. All was going well, until....

We had terribly humid weather for a period and a friend who was visiting noticed my oil and commented that there was condensation on the inside of the jars. Not a good thing for oil! So I replaced the jar lids with cheesecloth, folded over several times and secured with a rubber band around the lid. This allowed enough air that the condensation went away and I was merrily continuing adding flowers to my oil.

And then yesterday afternoon there was a large thunderstorm. It hadn't been forecasted, and my jars of oil were out in the sun, brewing away. And now that there was cheesecloth instead of the jar lids, the rain poured into my jars.

Oil and water definitely do not mix and I'm heartsick to lose my oil. Most of the St John's Wort has stopped blooming, so there's really nothing left to do until wait for next year.

Lesson learned!