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St. John's wort: what it is and how it works

St. John's wort: what it is and how it works


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L'St. John's wort, common name with which thehypericum, is a herbal remedy that has been used for hundreds of years to treat several mental health problems.

Of course, this does not mean at all that it should be used as the main treatment for these discomforts: as always, our suggestion is to talk to your doctor about each ailment, and identify together with this professional the most useful prescription in order to guarantee a better Welfare.

We therefore limit ourselves here to recalling that today St. John's wort is mainly used as an over-the-counter remedy to treat mild and moderate depression, and sometimes seasonal affective disorder, mild anxiety and sleep problems.

The botanical name of hypericum is Hypericum perforatum, and is sometimes marketed and sold as 'Hypericum'. Contains many active ingredients, including hypericum and hyperforin, which are believed to affect mood.

How does St. John's wort work?

St. John's wort is believed to work in a similar way to standard antidepressant medications. The medical research carried out to date, in particular, suggests that St. John's wort is able to increase the activity of brain chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are thought to play an important role in regulating our mood.

Precisely for this reason, many people suffering from mild depression or "bad mood" are inclined to opt for the use of St. John's wort as a herbal alternative to antidepressants.

Although it is possible buy St. John's wort at a pharmacy without a prescription, it is obviously always better to ask your family doctor for advice. In particular, it is of great importance to speak with your doctor in order to arrive at a diagnosis: therefore, if you are concerned about your mental health and are not sure of the treatment options available, it is precisely at this moment that the health professional will have to enter at stake.

Read also: Properties of Nigella Sativa

Does St. John's wort work?

But St. John's wort really works?

Indeed, some analyzes suggest that, in some cases, St. John's wort may actually be as effective as some antidepressant drugs for treating mild or moderate depression.

However, the fact that it is a natural ingredient it does not mean that it is not without side effects. It can in fact cause less or less intense bias than commonly prescribed antidepressants.

Furthermore, for the severe depression, there is little evidence to show that St. John's wort can help. In short, experiences vary from person to person, and further research is needed in order to arrive at a more generalized consideration.

In summary, if you are considering taking St. John's wort to treat other mental health problems, such as anxiety or seasonal affective disorder, it is worth noting that there is very little evidence existing on how effective it can actually be.

Warnings on the use of St. John's wort

We particularly recommend that you talk to your doctor about the idea of ​​taking St. John's wort, if:

  • Yes is pregnant o if you are breastfeeding, because there is limited information on the safety of the mother and the unborn / infant;
  • you received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder - as with all antidepressants, it is known that in some people the product can cause hypomania, or a rapid transition from a low to a high mood;
  • yes they have less than 18 years;
  • they are currently hiring prescribed medications, contraceptives (such as the pill), or common over-the-counter drugs.

Interactions of St. John's wort

These are some of the common interactions of St. John's wort with other products:

  • antidepressants: you should not take St. John's wort at the same time as any other antidepressant. The combination of the two drugs can worsen depression and can lead to serotonin syndrome;
  • sleeping pills and anesthetics: St. John's wort can prolong the effects of some sleeping pills and anesthetics. If you take St. John's wort and need to take a general or local anesthetic, you must promptly inform the anesthetist;
  • contraceptives (including emergency contraception): St. John's wort can reduce the level of contraceptives in the blood and make them less effective, increasing the risk of pregnancy and bleeding.

Other drugs identified as interacting with St. John's wort include:

  • antipsychotics;
  • anticoagulants, to thin the blood;
  • immunosuppressants, to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ.

It can also reduce the effectiveness of common drugs to be treated:

  • cholesterol;
  • heart disease;
  • high blood pressure;
  • migraine;
  • epilepsy;
  • cancer;
  • hepatitis C;
  • HIV and AIDS.

How safe is St. John's wort?

Although herbal remedies are natural, that doesn't mean they are always safe and free of side effects.

We also remember that drugs affect people in different ways, and therefore some may not have the same experience as others. It is always important to be aware of any potential risks when taking medications that have not been prescribed by your GP.

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

Some people who take St. John's wort do not report any side effects. However, those who have side effects most commonly report:

  • nausea, malaise or diarrhea;
  • headache;
  • allergic reactions;
  • fatigue;
  • dizziness;
  • confusion;
  • dry mouth;
  • skin problems.

A rare side effect of St. John's wort is an increased sensitivity to sunlight. It may therefore be helpful to apply a high factor sunscreen, cover your skin or stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Finally, since St. John's wort has properties similar to prescribed antidepressants, it is advisable to slowly reduce the dosage to reduce the possibility of withdrawal symptoms, especially if you have taken St. John's wort for more than a few weeks.

You may also be interested in our related article on benefits of St. John's Wort oil.


Video: The Basics: St. Johns Wort. WebMD (June 2022).