Millions of people believe St. John’s wort is an effective herbal remedy used in treating lots of ailments, including depression.
The St. John’s wort plant has yellow flowers and is sometimes thought of asa weed in some parts of the United States. It has been used for medical purposes in other parts of the world for years. Many studies have been conducted to weigh the effectiveness of St. John’s wort. Some studies have suggested benefit, but other studies have not.
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Results from research to see if St. John’s wort is effective are diverse and conflicting. If you do choose to use St. John’s wort, check with your doctor first before taking it. St. John’s wort can interact with other medicines or supplements you may be taking and may have adverse side effects.
Scientific evidence that supports the use of St. John’s wort for depression
There is some scientific evidence that St. John’s wort may be helpful in treating mild depression, and the benefit appears similar to that of antidepressants. However, two large studies, one sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), indicated that the herb was no more effective than control in treating major depression of moderate severity; unluckily, the conventional drugs also studied did not fare any better than placebo, either.
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How do I take St. John’s wort?
St. John’s wort is most often taken in liquid or capsule form. The dried herb may also be used as a tea. The most common dose used in studies has been 300 mg, three times a day as a standardized extract.
When taking St. John’s wort, you should watch out for any of the following effects:
- Increased blood pressure
- Allergic reactions
- Fatigue and restlessness with long-term use
- Increased sensitivity to the sun — especially if you are fair-skinned and taking large doses
- Stomach upsets
What precautions should I take with St. John’s wort?
Herbal treatments are not recommended for children, elderly people, pregnant women or those with certain medical conditions or taking certain medicines. Research from NIH has indicated that St. John’s wort may reduce the effectiveness of several drugs, including birth control pills, drugs used to prevent organ transplant rejections, and some heart disease medications. Discuss with your doctor about all the medications you are taking.
Precautions to take with herbal remedies
Here are additional precautions you need to take to increase the safety of using herbal remedies:
- Discuss any drugs or supplements you use, including herbal products, with your doctor.
- Stop taking the herbal product and see your doctor if you experience side effects such as skin rashes, nausea, anxiety, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, or diarrhea.
- Beware of commercial claims of what herbal products can do. Look for scientific-based sources of information.
- Use brands that list the herb’s common and scientific name, the name and address of the manufacturer, a batch and lot number, expiration date, dosage guidelines, and potential side effects.