St. John’s wort is a herb that’s commonly used to treat depression and anxiety. But before you start taking St. John’s wort for depression, it’s essential to get all the facts. No doubt that’s why you’re reading this now.
In this post I’m going to explain what St. John’s wort is, and how it works to treat depression. I’ll also cover St. John’s wort supplements, as well as potential issues you need to be aware of.
So, first question . . .
What Is St. John’s Wort?
St. John’s wort (hypericum perforatum) is a flowering herb native to Europe. Its natural habitat is the dry ground of meadows and woods. The flowers of St. John’s wort produce dozens of biologically active compounds. One of these compounds, hypericin, is effective for treating depression.
St. John’s wort has been used as a medicinal herb for over 2,000 years for its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. Its use dates back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat various nervous and mood disorders.
It is named after John the Baptist because it blooms around his birthday (June 24th). The word “wort” is an old English name for plant.
St. John’s Wort for Depression
St. John’s Wort is an effective natural remedy for mild to moderate depression. Also, it has fewer side effects than antidepressant medications.
It’s not fully understood how St. John’s wort works to treat depression. However, it’s believed that it has the ability to make more serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine available in the brain. These three neurotransmitters help to boost mood and reduce the symptoms of depression.
Depression can lead to gut health problems such as leaky gut syndrome. A leaky gut can result in inflammation. St. John’s wort helps fight inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory genes such as cyclooxygenase-2, interleukin-6 and inducible nitric-oxide synthase.
St. John’s Wort Supplements
St. John’s wort supplements are available as capsules, tablets and powder.
However, not all St. John’s wort supplements are created equal. As mentioned previously, hypericin is the compound in St John’s wort that treats depression. The hypericin content for St. John’s wort supplements has been standardised at 0.3%.
It’s also important that there is a sufficient amount of hypericin. This should be 0.5mg per capsule/tablet/dose.
Some cheaper products cut corners by using lower percentages and/or amounts of hypericin. As long as you choose a good brand and check the label you’ll be fine. I no longer use a St. John’s wort supplement because I no longer need it. When I did use it, I used Solgar St. John’s Wort.
Finally, please be aware that it can take six to eight weeks before you notice any benefit from taking a St. John’s wort supplement.
A Word of Warning
St. John’s Wort should not be used if you are already taking any antidepressant medications. It’s also known to interact with certain other prescription medications. Existing medical conditions can also be affected.
St. John’s wort should also be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Regardless, St. John’s Wort should only be used under the guidance of your doctor or psychiatrist.
As mentioned previously, St. John’s Wort has fewer side effects than antidepressant medications. However, it’s important to be aware of them.
The possible side effects of St. John’s wort include:
- feeling nauseous or being sick
- allergic reactions
- dry mouth
- skin problems
- severe reaction to sun exposure (if large dose taken) – can be prevented by using sunblock
If you take St. John’s wort, and you experience these or any other side effects, see your doctor or psychiatrist immediately. Don’t just stop taking it. Instead, it’s best to reduce the dose gradually.
The medications that St. John’s wort may interact with include:
- heart disease medication
- migraine medication
- allergy medications
- birth control pills
As mentioned previously, St John’s wort produces a number of biologically active substances. Some of these substances produce intestinal or hepatic enzymes. These can either remove medications from the body, or metabolise them so they are inactive.
Medical conditions that may be affected by St. John’s wort include:
- high cholesterol
- gastrointestinal problems
- bleeding disorder
I’ve explained everything you need to know before taking St. John’s wort for depression:
- what is St. John’s Wort, exactly?
- how it works to treat depression
- St. John’s wort supplements
- what you need to be aware of
I hope this post has answered your questions about St. John’s Wort. Hopefully you can now make an informed choice whether or not to try St. John’s wort for depression.
If you do decide to try it – and I’m sorry to be so repetitive – please talk to your doctor or psychiatrist first.
Okay, are there any questions I haven’t answered? Let me know in the comments section below . . .