When a herb’s medicinal traditions go back hundreds of years, there’s a good reason for its popularity. St John’s Wort’s history goes back to 400 BC and its therapeutic uses can help your dog as well.
What Is St John’s Wort?
St John’s Wort is a herb that grows in fields, along river banks, ocean shores and anywhere there’s poor soil. It got its name because it blooms around June 24th, the Feast Day of St John the Baptist. And it has some wide-ranging therapeutic properties.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans used St John’s Wort medicinally for anything from snake bites and digestive issues to depression and wound healing. In the Middle Ages its magical powers helped ward off evil and protect against disease. And you could predict your longevity by hanging a sprig of the plant near your bed overnight. If it withered, your chances for a long life were not good.
Today, it’s most famous as a natural substitute for Prozac in treating depression.
Can You Give St John’s Wort To Dogs?
St John’s Wort is safe to give to dogs and has many therapeutic uses. It’s calming, can relieve pain, and help with wounds or skin problems. There are a few possible side effects so you do need to be cautious if your dog is on any medications, is diabetic, or is going to have surgery.
Healing Properties Of St John’s Wort
The primary constituents in St John’s Wort’s flowers, leaves and stem are:
- Flavonoids (immune-balancing)
- Quinones (anti-tumor)
- Polyphenols and tannins (antioxidants)
RELATED: Why your dog needs more antioxidants …
Together these equal some pretty powerful health benefits for your dog. St John’s Wort’s many healing properties include:
Here are some of the many therapeutic benefits of the herb that you can use for your dog.
4 Reasons To Use St John’s Wort For Dogs
#1 Calm And Soothe Anxiety
Thanks to its anti-depressant properties, St John’s Wort can calm anxiety. Studies show that it’s as effective as standard anti-depressants like Prozac, but without the side effects.
- Use it to soothe your dog when he’s stressed (but avoid before surgery – see Side Effects below)
- Combine with valerian to treat separation anxiety
- Blend it with other similar herbs for a gentle, effective calming formula when your dog is anxious. Try skullcap, chamomile and passionflower
- If your dog gets car sick, give it before a car ride to calm the nerves and soothe an upset, nervous stomach
You can also use St John’s Wort flower essence to relieve insomnia, nightmares and night sweats.
#2 Relieve Pain
St John’s Wort is also a useful pain reliever. As a nervine tonic it works well with injuries to calm nerve endings. It can also prevent inflammation. St John’s Wort penetrates deep into muscles to reach nerve endings and release throbbing tension. Use it to:
- Manage arthritis and joint pain
- Calm the nerves after a bee sting or bug bite
- Soothe the sting of cuts or wounds
- Calm inflamed tissue and inflammation in the nervous system and spinal cord
#3 Disinfect Wounds
St John’s Wort has strong antiviral properties so it is effective against all kinds of bacteria, fungus and viruses. It’s ideal for disinfecting and for natural wound care, including:
- Cleaning bacteria from scrapes and scratches
- Healing hot spots
- Healing and soothing burns and sores
For first aid, apply it directly to the wound (as a salve, tincture or oil infusion). Add some calendula to speed up healing.
#4 Manage Dandruff Or Oily Skin
Added to shampoo as a tea infusion, the astringent properties in St John’s Wort can help with oily fur and dandruff. Gently simmer 1 oz of fresh or dry herbs in 4 oz water for 20 minutes. Strain, cool and add to a natural shampoo.
RELATED: How to manage your dog’s skin problems …
How To Harvest St John’s Wort
If it grows where you live, harvest it when the flowers are in full bloom. The flowers, leaves and stem are all used medicinally. Try to use it as soon as you can after you harvest it as it’s best when it’s fresh. Or you can buy it as a tincture or glycerin extract, or as a dried herb loose or in capsules.
You can also make a tea …
St John’s Wort Tea For Dogs
- Use 1 tsp dried herb per 8 oz filtered water
- Bring water to a boil, remove from heat.
- Add dried herb and let it steep for 4-5 minutes.
- Strain, cool and pour over your dog’s food …
1 to 20 lbs … 1/4 cup, 1-3 times per day
20 to 50 lbs … 1/4 – 1/2 cup, 1-3 times per day
50 to 100 lbs … 1 cup, 1-3 times per day
St John’s Wort Dosing For Dogs
Tincture Dosage: 1 drop for extra small dogs, 2 drops for small dogs, 3 drops for medium dogs, 4 drops for large dogs and 5 drops for extra-large dogs, twice a day before food. For glycerine extract: double the tincture dosage
Dried Herb Dosage: 150 mg for extra small dogs, 250-300 mg for small dogs, 300-500 mg for medium dogs, 500-800 mg for large dogs and 800-1200 mg for extra-large dogs given twice daily, with food.
Flower Essence: 3-6 drops in water bowl or before eating in mouth. Flower essence can be used with dogs who can’t use the dried herb or tincture for health reasons.
St John’s Wort Side Effects
People have used St John’s Wort safely for over 2,000 years. And even though it’s a natural herbal remedy, you should use it with caution and be aware of how it can influence other treatments.
St John’s Wort can interact with several types of pharmaceuticals. That’s because St. John’s Wort can cause the body to produce a type of enzyme that clears chemicals quickly from the bloodstream. So if your dog is taking meds, St. John’s Wort could lessen their effect. It can also react with common pharmaceuticals, and heart and anxiety medications.
Before using St. John’s Wort, be sure to check with your veterinarian or herbalist about any contraindications. Make sure that you tell them your dog’s medical history or if he’s on any current meds.
If your dog takes medication for diabetes, ask your vet before using St John’s Wort. The herb can be helpful in lowering blood glucose levels, but it could mean you need to reduce your dog’s dose of insulin or other medications to avoid triggering dangerously low blood glucose.
Avoid Before Surgery
Don’t give St John’s Wort for 48 hours before surgery as it may strengthen the effects of anesthesia.
In rare cases, some animals can develop a photosensitive rash (similar to sunburn) from St John’s Wort. Use extra caution if your dog is white, has white or pink skin pigment or a short coat. If a rash develops, keep your dog out of sunlight and discontinue use.
As you can see, St John’s Wort isn’t just for depression or anxiety. Give some of these uses a try for your dog.
Linde, K et al. St. John’s wort for treating depression. Cochrane Library. 10.1002/14651858.CD000448.
Can ÖD, Öztürk Y, Öztürk N, Sagratini G, Ricciutelli M, Vittori S, Maggi F. Effects of treatment with St. John’s Wort on blood glucose levels and pain perceptions of streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Fitoterapia. 2011 Jun;82(4):576-84.
Zhou S, Chan E, Pan SQ, Huang M, Lee EJ. Pharmacokinetic interactions of drugs with St John’s wort. J Psychopharmacol. 2004 Jun;18(2):262-76.
Wölfle U, Seelinger G, Schempp CM. Topical application of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). Planta Med. 2014 Feb;80(2-3):109-20.
Borrelli F, Izzo AA. Herb-drug interactions with St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): an update on clinical observations. AAPS J. 2009 Dec;11(4):710-27.