St. John’s wort is an herb that has been traditionally recommended for treating a variety of medical conditions. Also called Hypericum perforatum L. in medical circles, St. John’s wort is notably known as an alternative treatment for depression. Some studies have shown that St. John’s wort is more effective in treating depression than a placebo and may be as effective as other tricyclic anti-depressant drugs for treating mild to moderate depression.
One key advantage of St. John’s wort among other supplements is that it is used as treatment is based on about two decades of European research. Most of the research deals with how this supplement is used to treat mild to moderate depression. Study results have shown that it may be as effective as tricyclic antidepressants and may even be compared to effects of certain Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants but with fewer side effects.
Preliminary studies have shown that St. John’s wort works by preventing nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing the chemical serotonin. But how it actually functions in treating depression is not yet entirely clear. And since it is a supplement, using it as treatment for a person’s depression would still require careful medical supervision.
Other Known Benefits
Aside from treating depression, St. John’s wort has long been used as a sedative and as an early treatment for malaria. Some even use it as a balm for wounds, insect bites and burns. Some people also use St. John’s wort to help them get rid of certain sleeping disorders.
Due care should be exercised when using St. John’s wort as a supplement. It is known to cause increased sensitivity to light for many of its users. Using St. John’s wort may also cause other side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, headaches and stomach related symptoms.
One of the more serious side effects of St. John’s wort has to do with its interaction with other drugs. Depending on a certain type of drug, St. John’s wort has been known to affect the way the body breaks down drug compounds. This may eventually affect the drug’s function. Such effects have been noted when St. John’s wort is used together with certain antidepressants, birth control pills, cyclosporine, digoxin, warfarin and many others.