Named after Saint John the Baptist, St. John’s wort is a perennial shrub that produces bright yellow flowers each year around June 24, the day that Saint John celebrated his birthday. In ancient times the Romans and Greeks believed that St. John’s wort could ward off evil spirits, but over the centuries the herb has gained popularity as an effective natural antidepressant.
What St. John’s Wort Does
Scientists are not completely sure just how St. John’s wort works but it is believed that the herb boosts serotonin levels in the brain, which is imperative to maintaining healthy mood and emotion.
• Although few studies have been conducted to determine its effects on severe depression, St. John’s wort has been used for many years as an effective remedy for mild to moderate depression and the symptoms associated with it.
• St. John’s wort promotes sound sleep and can be particularly valuable for those who suffer from depression marked by low levels of energy, fatigue and sleeplessness.
• St. John’s wort may also be helpful in treating those who suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. Better known as “wintertime blues” SAD is a kind of depression that starts with the dullness of fall and winter and starts to dissipates in the bright sun filled days of spring and summer.
How to Take St. John’s Wort
Much like prescription antidepressants, St. John’s wort must be allowed to build up in the system in order to become effective, so be sure to allow 3 -4 weeks to determine if it is working. If traditional antidepressants have already been prescribed, always consult a doctor before adding or switching to St. John’s wort.
• Take St. John’s as close as possible to meal time to avoid any potential stomach upset.
• Whether the herb is to be taken in the form of a liquid, gelcap, capsule or tablet always follow package directions as to the proper dosage to be taken.
• The usual recommended dose is 300 mg of an extract standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin per day.
• It is also helpful to note that hypericin is also said to combat stomach ulsers.
Fewer Side Effects
With all of the possible side effects associated with conventional antidepressants, anyone who has ever suffered from any of the conditions that accompany mild depression knows how difficult finding an effective remedy can be. St. John’s wort is said to have fewer side effects than conventional antidepressants.
Although St. John’s wort may interfere with prescription antidepressants, it does not appear to interact with other medications, which makes it a good alternative for older people who take multiple medications. Possible side effects can include upset stomach, constipation, dizziness, dry mouth and fatigue.
St. John’s wort also has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties and, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, has been used topically to help heal wounds, burns and is often used for the pain, burning, itching and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.
Many herbal practitioners claim that those who suffer from PMS (premenstrual syndrome), chronic pain and fibromyalgia can benefit from the pain relieving effects of St. John’s wort.
Reminder: If you have any psychiatric or medical condition, always consult a doctor before adding or switching to an herbal supplement to treat symptoms.