St. Johns Wort
$ 14.99 $ 15.58
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Johnswort, Amber, Hard hay, Goat Weed, Klamath Weed
Flowers and Leaves
Europe, Australia, United States
St. John’s wort is an herb. Its flowers and leaves are used to make medicine.
St. John’s wort is most commonly used for depression and conditions that sometimes go along with depression such as anxiety, tiredness, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. There is some strong scientific evidence that it is effective for mild to moderate depression.
Other uses include heart palpitations, moodiness and other symptoms of menopause, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
St. John’s wort has been tried for exhaustion, stop-smoking help, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), migraine and other types of headaches, muscle pain, nerve pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also used for cancer, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis C.
An oil can be made from St. John’s wort. Some people apply this oil to their skin to treat bruises and scrapes, inflammation and muscle pain, first degree burns, wounds, bug bites, hemorrhoids, and nerve pain. But applying St. John’s wort directly to the skin is risky. It can cause serious sensitivity to sunlight.
St. John’s wort is native to Europe but is commonly found in the US and Canada in the dry ground of roadsides, meadows, and woods. Although not native to Australia and long considered a weed, St. John’s wort is now grown there as a crop. Today, Australia produces 20 percent of the world’s supply.
The use of St. John’s wort dates back to the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates recorded the medical use of St. John’s wort flowers. St. John’s wort was given its name because it blooms about June 24th, the birthday of John the Baptist. “Wort” is an old English word for plant.
A Review of St. John's Wort Extracts for Major Depression
Major depression is a disorder characterized by a depressed mood and/or a loss of interest in nearly all activities consistently for at least 2 weeks. People with major depression may also experience a variety of other symptoms such as loss of appetite, fatigue, sleep disturbance, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide. Extracts from the herb St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) are used in many countries, especially Germany, to treat depression. However, results from clinical trials worldwide have been contradictory, and the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for depression is still questionable. Additionally, major depression is often treated with antidepressant drugs, which have only shown modest effects over placebo in clinical trials.
NCCAM-funded researchers affiliated with universities in Germany reviewed the scientific literature on St. John’s wort for major depression and analyzed findings from randomized, double-blind studies comparing St. John’s wort extracts with placebo and standard antidepressants. The researchers reviewed a total of 29 studies in 5,489 people. The studies came from a variety of countries, tested several different St. John’s wort extracts, and mainly included people with minor to moderately severe symptoms of depression.
According to this literature review, St. John’s wort extracts appeared to be superior to placebo, were as effective as standard antidepressants, and had fewer side effects than antidepressants. However, the findings from studies in German-speaking countries were disproportionately favorable, possibly because some subjects had slightly different types of depression, or because some of the small studies were flawed and overly optimistic in reporting their results. The authors noted the need to investigate the reasons for the differences between study findings from German-speaking countries and those from other countries.
Linde K, Berner MM, Kriston L. St. John's wort for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.2008; (4):CD000448.
Side Effects and Cautions
- Research has shown that St. John’s wort interacts with many medications in ways that can interfere with their intended effects. Examples of medications that can be affected include:
- Birth control pills
- Cyclosporine, which prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs
- Digoxin, a heart medication
- Indinavir and possibly other drugs used to control HIV infection
- Irinotecan and possibly other drugs used to treat cancer
- Seizure-control drugs, such as phenytoin and phenobarbital
- Warfarin and related anticoagulants.
- St. John’s wort may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. Other side effects can include anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction.
- Taking St. John’s wort with certain antidepressants may lead to increased serotonin-related side effects, which may be potentially serious.
- St. John’s wort is not a proven therapy for depression. If depression is not adequately treated, it can become severe. Anyone who may have depression should see a health care provider. There are effective proven therapies available.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary and alternative medicine, see NCCAM's Time to Talk campaign.