St. John's Wort for Depression and Anxiety

St. John's wort may elevate your mood and help you to beat mild to moderate depression. Right now there is insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness for anxiety.

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an aromatic, perennial, indigenous European herb. It has bright yellow flowers that bloom in summer and cover fields in a bright golden-yellow color. The flowers bloom around the celebration of St. John's Tide (June 24), and that might be the reason why it is called, "St. John's wort."

St. John's wort is the most popular herbal remedy for depression. It has been in use for at least 2400 years. Its use dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. The ancient and medieval people believed that this plant had magical properties. They believed that it would "ward off evil" and "chase the devil and demons away."

A number of scientific studies have been carried out to investigate the effectiveness of St. John's wort for depression. The studies lend support to the belief that it can relieve mood disorders. A Cochrane Collaboration study indicated that the extracts of this herb are superior to placebo in treating patients with major depression.

St. John's wort is mainly used to treat depression, but every now and then we get to hear claims that it also helps anxiety associated with depression. At this point in time, there is insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness as a herbal remedy for anxiety or OCD. Other herbs for anxiety, e.g. passionflower may be more effective than St. John's wort in relieving anxiety.

St. John's wort for depression is easily available in the form of OTC herbal supplements in stores and can also be purchased online.

St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Flowers of St. John's Wort
Flowers of St. John's Wort

Botanical Name

Hypericum perforatum.

Common Names

St. John's wort, Common St. John's wort, Lord God's wonder plant, Amber touch-and-heal, devil's scourge, Tipton's weed, Klamath weed, Goat weed.

Uses of St. John's Wort

St. John's wort is a popular herbal treatment for depression. Apart from its use as an anti-depressant, it is sometimes used as a herbal remedy for anxiety associated with depression, often in combination with other herbs for anxiety (e.g. passionflower).

Other less popular uses are: treatment of menstrual cramps, antiseptic for burns and wounds, astringent, inducing abortion, etc. It is used externally as an anti-inflammatory application for treating arthritis. It is also used to produce yellow and red dyes.

Supplements - St. John's Wort for Depression

St. John's wort is readily available in the form of herbal supplements for depression. Pure St. John's wort supplements are an effective remedy for mild to moderate depression.

Active Substances - What Does St. John's Wort Contain?

The extract of St. John's wort contains hyperforin, adhyperforin, hypericin, pseudohypericin, flavonoids, tannins, xanthrones, monoterpenes, sesquisterpenes and phytosterols.

Mechanism of action - How Does St. John's Wort Work?

Hyperforin is thought to inhibit the neuronal re-uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT). Antidepressants belonging to the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine or sertraline work in a similar manner but they have stronger and more side-effects than St. John's wort. Hyperforin is also thought to inhibit the re-uptake of dopamine, noradrenaline, GABA and glutamate. Adhyperforin seems to be a GABA reuptake inhibitor.

Hypericin, xanthones and flavonoids are thought to increase serotonin levels due to their mono amine oxidase (MAO) inhibiting properties. MAO inhibitors reduce the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, thereby increasing their concentration in the central nervous system.

Side Effects of St. John's Wort for Depression

St. John's wort is generally well tolerated. Rarely some people may experience side effects such as dizziness, tingling, headache, tiredness, stomach upsets, skin reactions, sensitivity to light, vivid dreams, sleep-disturbances, restlessness and dry mouth while consuming St. John's wort. Side effects can be potentiated by substances that interact with this herb (see below).

Things to Avoid While Taking St. John's Wort for Depression

St. John's wort can interact with yohimbe herb, CNS stimulants, antidepressants, flouxetine, alprazolam, midazolam, oral contraceptives, anti-viral drugs, drugs used for HIV/AIDS, immunosuppressants, cyclosporine, omeprazole, warfarin, loperamide, digoxin, phenobarbitol, theophylline, levodopa, irinotecan, suboxone, lithium, tryptophan, linezolid, selegiline, dextromethorphan, buspirone, 5-HTP, 5-HT1 agonists, grapefruit, garlic, etc.

St. John's wort can create a serious adverse drug reaction called Serotonin Syndrome (SS) if it is combined with drugs that affect serotonin levels. These drugs include prescription drugs used to treat depression, bromocriptine (Parlodel or Cycloset), and amphetamines.

Who Should Not Take St. John's Wort for Depression?

Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use St. John's wort for depression or anxiety. People suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), chronic liver disorders or kidney diseases should also avoid it.

Special Precautions

As mentioned above, St. John's wort can cause serious interactions with other anti-depressants, prescription medicines, herbs, or dietary supplements.

Do not use St. John's wort for depression or anxiety during pregnancy.

If you are taking any prescription medicines or supplements for anxiety, consult your doctor/pharmacist before taking St. John's wort for depression.

If you develop hyper-sensitivity to sunlight stop using it. It is good to use a sunscreen or avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight.

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Disclaimer: The information present on this website is not a substitute for expert medical advice. For the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of any illness, please consult a doctor. The owner of this website is not liable for any adverse consequences, whatsoever...More>>

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