St. John’s wort is a plant with yellow flowers that has been used for centuries for health purposes, such as for depression and anxiety. This fact sheet answers some frequently asked questions about St. John’s wort and depression, and summarizes what the science says about its effectiveness and the research being done.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), when taken long-term, functions as an antidepressant herb without the adverse side effects often associated with pharmaceutical drugs. Take up to 1 tsp of the liquid tincture 2-3 x daily. Start taking the herb a week before the onset of menstruation, so it has time to begin working.
Additional categories of herbs which are crucial to the treatment of premenstrual syndrome include liver-regulating herbs, blood tonifying herbs, and vital energy herbs.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a long-living plant with yellow flowers whose medicinal uses were first recorded in ancient Greece. It contains many chemical compounds. Some are believed to be the active ingredients that produce the herb’s effects, including the compounds hypericin and hyperforin.
How these compounds actually work is not yet fully understood, but several theories have been suggested. Preliminary studies suggest that St. John’s wort might work by preventing nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing the chemical messenger serotonin, or by reducing levels of a protein involved in the body’s immune system functioning.
St. John’s wort has been used over the centuries for mental conditions, nerve pain, and a wide variety of other health conditions. Today, St. John’s wort is used for anxiety, mild to moderate depression, and sleep disorders.
St. Johns wort appears to boost levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which effects the emotions. The herb seems so promising as a natural antidepressant that the National Institutes of Health(NIH) in Washington, D.C,. began a major study in 1997 to investigate its effectiveness.
St. John’s wort doesn’t appear to interact with most conventional drugs (except for antidepressants), many older people on complex medication regimens may be able to benefit from it.
In Germany, where doctors routinely prescribe herbal remedies, St. John’s wort is the most common form of antidepressant, more widely used than the drugs Prozac or Zoloft because it has far fewer side effects.
The herb is even being investigated as a treatment for panic attacks and general anxiety.
Relieve mild to moderate depression
Careful analysis of 23 different studies of St. John’s wort concluded that the herb works as well as antidepressant drugs. And it helps promote sound sleep,
St. John’s wort is particularly beneficial for those who suffer fatigue, low energy, or insomnia as a result of depression. Many studies have found St. John’s wort as effective as conventional antidepressants in relieving severe depression in adults.
The herb may also aid in treating depressive elements of chronic fatigue syndrome and seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD or “wintertime blues”), a type of depression linked to the shortage of daylight in the fall and winter.
In Europe, St. John’s wort is widely prescribed for depression. In the United States, there is public interest in St. John’s wort as a treatment for depression, but it is not a prescription medicine.
Scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for depression is inconsistent. An analysis of the results of 37 clinical trials concluded that St. John’s wort may have only minimal beneficial effects on major depression. However, the analysis also found that St. John’s wort may benefit people with minor depression; these benefits may be similar to those from standard antidepressants. Overall, St. John’s wort appeared to produce fewer side effects than some standard antidepressants.
One of the studies included in the analysis was cofunded by NCCAM and two other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the National Institute of Mental Health and the Office of Dietary Supplements. This study found that St. John’s wort was no more effective than placebo in treating major depression of moderate severity. However, the antidepressant sertraline, used in one arm of the study, also showed little difference from placebo.