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 St. John's Wort
(Hypericum perforatum)

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St. John's wort is well studied and is shown to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression. If you suffer from mild to moderate depression, consider taking this herb. Be sure to take it for up to 8 weeks before judging how effective it is.

If you are currently on a prescription medications, you'll need to check with your pharmacist or doctor first. St. John's wort interacts with many prescription medications.

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Table of Contents

Evidence of Benefits (Leaf Rating System)

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Mild to Moderate Depression

leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Severe Depression
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Dermatitis / Wound Healing
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbalMenopause Symptoms
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Hemorrhoids
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbalBurns, Wounds and Other Skin Conditions
leaf logo plant natural remedies herb herbal Alcohol Abuse
Anxiety - May not be effective

Well-designed clinical trials show that taking this herbs did not help reduce social anxiety disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Probably not effective

Earlier clinical studies showed it was helpful but a later well-designed study (blinded and placebo controlled) show that it was no better than taking a placebo (sugar pill).

Smoking Cessation - Probably not effective

Animal studies suggested that this herb may be helpful for helping with quitting smoking. However, a clinical trial done showed it didn't make any difference in quitting rate.
HIV/AIDS - Probably not effective

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Facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is St. John's Wort also known as?

In different parts of the world, people may refer to it as goatweed, hypericum or Klamath weed. It is commonly misspelled as St. John's Wart.

What chemicals are found in St. John's Wort?

St. John's Wort contain many chemicals believed to have an effect on our body. The three that interest scientists are hypericum, hyperforin and flavonoids.

What is the history behind St. John's Wort?

This herb has been used since the Middle Ages and its benefits have even been recorded by Hippocrates. It has be used for centuries in Europe for treating depression. Currently, the Germans use this herb extensively to treat anxiety and depression. The scientific community is currently showing renewed interest in what this herb can treat.

What use is supported by scientific research studies?

This herb is shown to be effective in treating mild and moderate (and even major) depression. It has been studied in Europe for the past 20 years.

Studies also suggest it to be helpful in treating some of the psychological symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it was shown to be effective. It was even more effective when combined with conventional light therapy.

Also, studies show that this herb, when applied to the skin, seems to help with various skin conditions such as eczema, wound healing, minor sunburns and hemorrhoid conditions.

In Germany, the German Commission E has approved it for use in treating depression, anxiety, dermatitis, wounds and burns.

I've heard that this herb can be used for those with HIV/AIDS. Is it true?

In studies done in the lab, this herb was able to kill off virus and bacteria. However a clinical study done in those suffering from HIV/AIDS showed that this herb had no effect on the virus.

How quick can I expect to see results from taking St. John's Wort?

It will take at least 2 weeks and often up to 8 weeks before you can see good results. (For comparison, prescription antidepressants need at least 3 weeks before good results can be expected.)

What about for major/severe depression. Will St. John's Wort help?

A review of all high-quality research studies (from Cochrane Database System) allowed the authors (Linde, Oct 2008) to conclude that this herb is as effective as standard antidepressant medications and had fewer reported side effects than standard antidepressant medications for treating major depression.

It is very important that those suffering from major depression be cared for under the supervision of their family doctor.

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Suggested Uses and Health Benefits

  • anxiety
  • attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • cancer
  • chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • depression (mild, moderate and major)
  • dermatitis
  • eczema
  • fibromyalgia
  • headache
  • hemorroids
  • insomnia
  • HIV/AIDS / anti-viral effects
  • menopause symptoms
  • migraine headache
  • neuropathic pain
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • premenstrual symptoms (PMS)
  • seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • smoking cessation
Topically (on the skin)
  • arthritis
  • eczema
  • minor burns
  • muscle strain
  • hemorrhoids
  • wound healing
  • varicose veins
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Side Effects, Toxicity and Warnings

What are some side effects of taking St. John's wort?

Most people report using this herb to only cause mild side effects. Reported side effects include: dizziness, fatigue/sedation, insomnia, headache, restlessness/anxiety, dry mouth, constipation, stomach pain and cramps, photosensitivity, rash and itching. It may also cause sexual dysfunction and impotence.

To avoid stomach related side effects, take this herb with a meal.

What are some dangers in using St. John's wort?

This herb seems to induce the liver enzymes causing drugs to breakdown faster. St. John's wort is shown to increase or decrease the action of many prescription drugs. We have listed several major dangers of using this supplement while you are on other prescription drugs.

Do not combine this supplement with other prescription without checking with your doctor or pharmacist.

Taking St. John's wort with prescription migraine medications such as Imitrex, Amerge, Maxalt and Zomig (and others) may significantly worsen the side effects of this group of drugs.

Using St. John's wort by women may cause breakthrough bleeding, affect the regular menstrual cycle. For women taking oral contraceptive pills (birth control pills), it might make it less effective and cause unwanted pregnancy.

Also, St. John's wort also causes blooding thinning medications such as Coumadin (warfarin) to be less effective. This could cause excessive bleeding.

In theory, St. John's wort seems to increase the effect of Plavix possibly causing more bleeding than usual.

How safe is it to use this herb in children?

There is one study done in children to show that it is safe to use. Dosage should be no more than half the adult dose. Use this herb in children under medical supervision.

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Dosage & How to Take It

Standardized Extracts - Take 300 to 500 mg three times daily (standardized to 0.3% hypericin or 3% hyperforin). Take with food to avoid stomach complaints.

Powder and Infusion - Take 2 to 4 grams three times daily.

On the Skin - The typical dosage is not known. A 1.5% concentration preparation have been used. Apply up to three times daily to treat dermatitis, wounds and hemorrhoids.

Selected References for St. John's Wort
Revised: November 29, 2011

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