A Look at St. Johns Wort Benefits & Potential Side Effects

St Johns wort is a treatment that dates back to the ancient Greeks, and the use of it as a medicine was recorded by Hippocrates. The herb is native to Europe, but is commonly found in the US and Canada as well. 

Australia grows the herb as a crop today and accounts for 20% of the world's supply. The flowers and leaves of the herb are the parts used to make the medicinal supplements. The word “wort” is an old English word for plant, and the name was given because the plant blooms about June 24th, which is the birthday of St John the Baptist.

The most common uses for St Johns wort are the treatment of depression and anxiety, and the general consensus is that the herb works about as well as prescription treatments when it come to mild to moderate cases of either. In more severe cases it is not generally thought to be as effective as prescription medication. These thoughts are even echoed by the prestigious Mayo clinic on its website.

What are the side effects of St Johns Wort?

Side effects of St Johns wort include some adverse reactions when mixed with some other medications, as well as increased sensitivity to sunlight. It is thought to render ineffective or less effective anti-anxiety medicines such as Xanax, as well as birth control medicines. 

There have been many conditions which St Johns wort has been used or tried as a treatment for, including depression and anxiety, menopausal symptoms, somatization disorder, wound healing, irritable bowel syndrome, and many more. In addition to the effectiveness in treating depression and anxiety, it seems to be effective for somatization disorder after 6 weeks of treatment, and wound healing when applied as an ointment topically.

There are many skeptics when it comes to the medical use of St Johns wort, and their skepticism is not entirely unfounded. The studies done on the herb have been of lesser quality than probably should have been required, and the production and distribution of the product has many issues. 

For instance, the medicinal qualities of the leaves and flowers from the active ingredients are deactivated by sunlight. This is why it is normally distributed in amber bottles, although this does not entirely block the effects the sun can have. There are also many recorded side effects of St Johns wort that are possible, usually with prolonged use. These can include trouble sleeping, vivid dreams, restlessness, dry mouth, irritability, and headaches among others.

While these concerns should be considered, as well as the possible adverse interactions with other drugs, the wide use of the herb for mild to moderate depression and the acceptance of this use by the Mayo clinic indicate that it may be a viable alternative for many people.

What's the bottom line?

St Joshns wort is one of the most widely used herbal extract, as well as one of the most accepted natural treatments by the traditional medical community.

As such, it might be worth looking into if you're looking for a natural way to treat mild to moderate depression, or any other condition it purportedly helps.

Talk to your doctor and see if this is the right solution for you.  It may be worth a try, if only to avoid the side effects of prescription depression medications.

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