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Frequently Asked Questions About St. John’s Wort

What is St. John’s Wort?

St John’s Wort is a shrub with yellow flowers, with berries ranging in color from white to red. Native to Europe, the plant has been used throughout history for medicinal purposes. Called St. John’s Wort because it flowers around St. John’s day on June 24th, it was originally used for supposed magical powers in Middle Age potions.

It was administered as a remedy as early as first century AD, and modern-day use surrounds depression and anxiety disorders.

The scientific name for the plant is Hypericum Perforatum.

The plant interacts with some medications, and is available only by prescription in some countries, according to WebMD. It is widely prescribed for depression in many European countries, according to a comprehensive scientific review published in 2017. In the United States, St. John’s Wort can be taken as a supplement without a prescription.

St. John’s Wort has been thought to act through a chemical called hypericin, but compounds in the herb similar to it may actually have a larger effect, according to WebMD. A compound called hyperforin, known as a phloroglucinol derivative is now thought to be the major psychoactive component, according to Examine.com.

Hyperforin is primarily found in the Hypericum plant genus, which has hundreds of varieties but is most notable in St. John’s Wort. Other active compounds in the herb include pseudohypericin and adhyperforin. Adhyperforin may contribute to St. John’s Wort’s antidepressant effects, according to a study.

St. John’s Wort is available as a supplement in different forms. It’s offered most often as an extract in encapsulated pills and tablets.

What Are the Uses & Benefits of St. John’s Wort?

This herbal remedy is most commonly used for mental health. The uses of St. John’s Wort include:

  • Depression: St. John’s Wort works as a dopamine-related antidepressant through the active component hypericin, according to Examine.com. Between 1960 and 2016, there have been at least 27 clinical trials with a total of 3,808 patients on depression with St. John’s Wort, which a 2017 review analyzed. These studies ranged in duration from 4 to 12 weeks, which means long-term safety and efficacy is unknown. A Cochrane systematic review of 29 trials (5489 patients) found that St. John’s Wort may appear to reduce symptoms. Note: This information was not reviewed by a health or medical professional.
  • Menopause: St. John’s Wort has been shown by most research to be effective at reducing menopause symptoms, particularly hot flashes, according to WebMD. One study has found that St. John’s Wort tablets taken three times daily (amounting to 900mg) substantially improved menopause symptoms after 12 weeks. Another study showed that St. John’s Wort extract can reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of hot flashes.

How Do I Take St. John’s Wort?

St. John’s Wort supplements are taken by mouth at dosages of between 300 and 1,800mg, according to Examine.com. The active compound hypericin has been stated to have a bioavailability of about 14%, according to a recent study.

Are There Any Side Effects of St. John’s Wort?

St. John’s Wort may cause serious interactions with other medications, which has caused France to ban the use of St. John’s Wort in products, according to WebMD. Drug classes, it interacts with include antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, anxiolytics, anesthetics, and analgesics, according to Examine.com.

In addition to the potential medication interactions, St. John’s Wort may also cause mild side effects such as sleep issues, difficulty sitting still, nervousness, skin rash, etc.

How Do I Pick a Good St. John’s Wort Product?

The highest quality St. John’s Wort supplements incorporate the herb by itself, considering its potential for interactions. Dosages and pills per serving can vary – some people may prefer taking smaller doses multiple times per day, while others may prefer the simplicity of once per day. When examining a product, make sure to also research the brand to ensure it’s trustworthy.

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