St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort

For over 2,000 years, the St. John’s Wort plant has been used as an herbal supplement for its anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant properties.  In ancient times, people even believed it had protective and mystical traits.  In ancient Greece, the famous physician and philosopher Galen would prescribe St. John’s Wort to heal wounds, menstrual disorders, and for use as a diuretic.  Today, many continue to take this herbal supplement to treat a variety of ailments.

In 1997, St. Johns Wort was rediscovered by modern day naturopaths and herbalists.  It was made even more well known after a study was published in the British Medical Journal, titled “St. John’s Wort for depression- an overview and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.”  This meta-analysis was drawn from 23 previously published studies in foreign medical journals.  In the analysis, it was shown that St. John’s Wort worked considerably better than a placebo.  In addition, compared to pharmaceutical antidepressants, it was just as effective, and better tolerated in the body.

Widely documented by researchers, St. John’s Wort also has antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, and antidepressant effects.  Two of the dominant phytochemical constituents of St. John’s Wort are called hyperforin and hypericin.  hyperforin is noted for its antidepressant properties, while hypericin is noted for its antiviral and antibiotic effects.

It has been used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, and to heal skin wounds.  It has also been used as a treatment for OCD, anxiety, diabetic nerve pain, and hepatitis C.

St. Johns Wort is described as a yellow weed, herb, or wildflower.  It typically grows in dry ground around meadows, woods, and even roadsides.  Its strange name comes from the fact that it blooms around St. Johns Day, June 24, and from the old English word for plant, “Wort”. It is native to Europe, but may also be found in the Americas, Australia, Africa, and parts of Asia.

Benefits of St. John’s Wort

It May Work as an Anti-Depressant

As mentioned above, it is widely believed that St. John’s Wort may help combat mild to moderate anxiety and depression.  It may also prove to have less side effects than most prescribed antidepressants have, such as loss of sex drive.  There are drug interactions when taking the herb, so it should only be taken with direction from a healthcare professional, especially if you are currently taking prescribed medications for depression.

Although it is not exactly known how St. John’s Wort treats depression, some researchers believe components similar to an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in it causes the creation of more norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain.  These three neurotransmitters may aid in boosting mood, and treating symptoms of depression.

During the winter months, there are people who experience a type of depression called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) due to the lack of sunlight.  It is usually treated with the use of light therapy.  There has been evidence that suggests that St. John’s Wort, when combined with phototherapy, may help improve the mood of those suffering from SAD.

It May Help With OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

A mental disorder known as OCD, in which people do certain things over and over again, and are not able to control their actions or thoughts, can be very debilitating, may have a promising treatment in St. Johns Wort. The Dean Foundation for Health Research and Education recently conducted a study that analyzed 12 OCD patients, and gave them St. John’s Wort over a 12 week period. They were given a dose of 450 milligrams of 0.3 percent St. John’s Wort, twice a day.  Weekly evaluations were conducted by the study with the Clinical Global Impressions of Improvement Scale, and the Yale-Brown Obsessive Scale, as well as monthly assessments with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.  Within one week, compelling changes had occurred, and increased thereafter during the trial.  At the end of the study 5 of the 12 patients said their condition improved “much” or “very much improved”.  Researchers concluded that St. John’s Wort may be beneficial in treating OCD, though more studies should be conducted.

It May Help With Skin Conditions

For thousands of years, St. John’s Wort has been used to treat abrasions, cuts, and inflammation of the skin, thanks to its antibacterial properties. It may also work as a natural remedy when treating eczema, minor burns, and hemorrhoids.

Side Effects of St. John’s Wort

Some of the side effects that have been reported when taking St. John’s Wort are; fatigue, confusion, headache, dry mouth, nausea, hives, insomnia, and skin rashes.

It should be noted that St. John’s Wort may make infertility worse, or interfere with the ability to get pregnant.

St. John’s Wort should not be combined with prescription antidepressants, as it may have adverse effects and lead to “Serotonin Syndrome”, which can manifest in symptoms ranging from rapid heart rate, heavy sweating, headaches, diarrhea, confusion, loss of muscle coordination, and agitation.  Severe symptoms may be life-threatening, and include irregular heartbeat, seizures, high fever, and unconsciousness.

Dosages

Before starting St. John’s Wort, it may be a good idea to discuss with your doctor, as it may interfere with prescribed medications you are currently taking.

St. John’s Wort is readily available in most vitamin and health food stores, and online.  It typically comes in capsule and tablet form.  In some instances it may be purchased as a powder.  It is also available in teas, oil-based lotions, and extracts.

Standardized St. John’s Wort supplements contain 3% hypericin. To make sure you are getting the right supplement for your needs, read the label before purchase.

The effects of St. John’s Wort may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to kick in.  Patience is key, so do not increase dosage unless directed by your doctor.

Some recommended dosages for St. John’s Wort are listed below:

  • For Anxiety – 900mg twice daily.
  • For OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) – 450 – 1800 mg daily for 12 weeks.
  • For Mild to Moderate Depression – 300 mg 3 times daily.
  • For PMS – 300 – 900 mg daily for 2 menstrual cycles.
  • For Wounds – Apply St. John’s Wort petroleum jelly on skin 3 times a day for 16 days.

Conclusion

St. John’s Wort had been used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments.  It was little over 20 years ago, that it was ‘rediscovered” as a potential treatment for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and PMS.  Though it is considered a natural remedy, because of its potential interactions with prescribed medications, especially antidepressants, it is best to consult your health care provider before you start taking St. John’s Wort.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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