St. John’s wort ( Hypericum perforatum ), once thought to rid the body of evil spirits, has a history of medicinal use dating back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat a range of illnesses, including various ‘nervous conditions.’
In recent years, there has been renewed interest in St. John’s wort as a treatment for depression and there has been a great deal of scientific research on this topic. St. John’s wort is one of the most commonly purchased herbal products in the United States.
Common Names: St. John’s Wort, Goatweed, Johnswort,
Latin Names: Hypericum perforatum
St. John’s wort is a shrubby plant with clusters of yellow flowers that have oval, elongate petals. The plant gets its name because it is often in full bloom around June 24, the day traditionally celebrated as the birthday of John the Baptist.
Both the flowers and leaves are used for medicinal purposes.
St. John’s wort has been effective in reducing depressive symptoms in those with mild to moderate depression. When compared with tricyclic anti-depressants St. John’s wort is equally effective, and has fewer side effects. This also appears to be true for another well known class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
St. John’s wort has been extensively studied in Europe over the last two decades, with more recent research in the United States. Short-term studies (1-3 months) suggest that St. John’s wort is more effective than placebo (sugar pill), and equally effective as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate major depression.
Comparisons to the more commonly prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac®) or sertraline (Zoloft®), are more limited. However, other data suggest that St. John’s wort may be just as effective as SSRIs with fewer side effects.
More about natural remedies for depression …
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
There is some indication that St. John’s wort may be useful in relieving both physical and emotional symptoms of PMS including cramps, irritability, food cravings, and breast tenderness.
The evidence is based on a single study that suggests that St. John’s wort may be effective in reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Further studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Used alone, St. John’s wort has improved mood in those suffering from SAD (a form of depression that occurs during the winter months because of lack of sunlight). This condition is often treated with photo (light) therapy. Effects may prove to be even greater when the herb is used in combination with light therapy.
Wounds, minor burns, hemorrhoids
Topical St. John’s wort is, at times, recommended by herbal specialists to reduce pain and inflammation and to promote healing by applying the agent directly to the skin. Preliminary laboratory tests are suggesting that this traditional use may have scientific merit.
Hypericin and pseudohypericin, found in both the leaves and flowers, are the most studied active components. There has been recent research to suggest, however, that tere may be other more active compounds. St John’s wort also contains essential oils and flavonoids.
- Dry herb (in capsules or tablets):
The usual dose for mild depression and mood disorders is 300 to 500 mg (standardized to 0.3% hypericin extract), three times per day, with meals.
- Liquid extract (1:1): 40 to 60 drops, two times per day.
Pour one cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 tsp of dried St. John’s wort and steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to 2 cups per day for four to six weeks.
- Oil or cream:
To treat inflammation, as in wounds, burns or hemorrhoids, an oil-based preparation of St. John’s wort can be applied topically.
Internal dosages generally require at least eight weeks to get the full therapeutic effect.
Side Effects and Precautions
Potential side effects from St. John’s wort are generally mild. They include stomach upset, hives or other skin rash, fatigue, restlessness, headache, dry mouth, and feelings of dizziness or mental confusion.
Although not common, St. John’s wort can also make the skin overly sensitive to sunlight (called photodermatitis).
St. John’s wort interacts with a range of medications. In most cases, this interactions leads to reduced the effectiveness of the medication in question; in other cases, however, St. John’s wort may increase the effects of a medication.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use St. John’s wort without first talking to your healthcare provider:
– Immunosuppresive medications
– Indinavir and other protease inhibitors
Any thoughts on using St John’s Wort medicinally? Or any questions? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can 🙂