St. John’s wort: a herbal remedy for depression that works

27 September 2019

Already during the first century in Ancient Greece, herbalist Pedarios Dioskourides mentioned the benefits of using St. John’s Wort (Hipericum Perforatum) to treat mental problems. Now a day, both Traditional Medicine Practitioners as well as many European physicians ( mostly German speaking), are recommending the use of this herbal remedy.

In 1999, the British Journal of Psychiatry ( one of the most reputable psychiatric journals in Europe) praised its use to treat Major Depressive Disorder. Finally, in 2008 the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA backed up the usage of such herbal remedy by evaluating all the studies done to date and compared the natural remedy to placebo ( a sugar pill). The results were clear: when it comes to mild to moderate depression, St.Johns Wort is as good as antidepressants and the side effects are less.The reality is that more than 5000 patients have participated in well designed studies and the results yield that,Hipericum Perforatum is an effective and safe way of treating depression.

This important piece of information seems to be lost and the usage of such treatment is sparse. Reason could be lack of publicity and the lack of knowledge on the part of many physicians. Reality is that people are showing more and more interest in alternative options to the usual chemical medications and that there is a special place for Hipericum Perforatum in the alternative medicine arena.

We are writing this article with the hope that more and more people learn about it and become more interested in its use. I personally use it with my patients, as often as I can.

There is some important facts I would like to share with you about this alternative treatment:

  • It takes longer than classic antidepressants. You have to wait up to 8 weeks to see a proper response.
  • Dosage should be 900 mg per day, divided in two dosages ( we don’t know how long does it stay in your system so we recommend twice a day )
  • Make sure to start this treatment under medical supervision. It can interact with other medications. For example, it should not be prescribed in combination with SSRIs or other medications that can increase the levels of serotonine
  • Be aware of the fact that as it is a herbal remedy, there is no control of the amount of active ingredient contained in the tablets. Use reputable sources of herbal remedies. Meaning, well known manufactures.
  • It should not be prescribed to patients who are severely depressed, or clients who are suicidal. It is ideal for mild to moderate cases.
  • The way it works is unknown, we believe there are two active ingredients in the flowers that can increase the levels of serotonine: Hypericin and hyperforin. Those components increase levels of neurotransmiters in the brain ( serotonine amongst others).
  • There are no robust studies done in the usage of this treatment long term, in children, during pregnancy or in lactating mothers.

In summary, there is an important role for St. John’s Wort in the treatment of depressive disorders that is underestimated. If you are interested in using a herbal remedy to treat depression please discuss it with your physician.