St. John's Wort
What is St. John's Wort for?
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.
France has banned the use of St. John’s wort products. The ban appears to be based on a report issued by the French Health Product Safety Agency warning of significant interactions between St. John’s wort and some medications. Several other countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada, are in the process of including drug-herb interaction warnings on St. John’s wort products.
The active ingredients in St. John’s wort can be deactivated by light. That’s why you will find many products packaged in amber containers. The amber helps, but it doesn’t offer total protection against the adverse effects of light.
What is St. John's Wort Possibly Effective for?
Mild to moderate depression. Taking St. John’s wort extracts improves mood, and decreases anxiety and insomnia related to depression. It seems to be about as effective in treating depression as many prescription drugs. In fact, clinical guidelines from the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine suggest that St. John’s wort can be considered an option along with antidepressant medications for short-term treatment of mild depression. However, since St. John’s wort does not appear to be more effective or significantly better tolerated than antidepressant medications, and since St. John’s wort causes many drug interactions, the guidelines suggest it might not be an appropriate choice for many people, particularly those who take other medications. St. John’s wort might not be as effective for more severe cases of depression.
• Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). There is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for OCD. The reason for contradictory findings could be due to differences in study design, differences in the St. John’s wort products used, or other factors.
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). There is preliminary evidence that St. John’s wort might help reduce PMS symptoms, by even as much as 50% in some women.
• Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Early studies suggest that St. John’s wort might help SAD. It appears to improve symptoms of anxiety, decreased sex drive, and sleep disturbances associated with SAD. It is useful alone or in combination with light therapy.
• Smoking cessation. Research to date suggests that taking a specific St. John’s wort extract (LI-160, Lichtwer Pharma US) 300 mg once or twice daily starting 1 week before and continuing for 3 months after quitting smoking does not improve long-term quit rates.
• Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
• Stomach upset.
• Skin conditions.
• Migraine headache.
• Nerve pain.
• Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
• Muscle pain.
• Weight loss.