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St. Johns Wort Uses, Dosage & Side Effects
What is St. John's Wort and What is it used for?
St. John's Wort is Hypericum Perforatum. It is a short, yellow-flowering, wild-growing plant ó healing herb to some; troublesome weed to others. It has a 2,400-year history of safe and effective usage in folk, herbal, and ancient medicine.
A series of recent double-blind, placebo-controlled studies indicate that a specific extract of Hypericum perforatum was as effective as prescription antidepressants but had far fewer side effects and cost considerably less
In Germany, more than fifty percent of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders are treated with hypericum.
"St. John's wort is a promising treatment for depression . . . Hypericum extracts were significantly superior to placebo and similarly effective as standard antidepressants . . . The herb may offer an advantage, however, in terms of relative safety and tolerability, which might improve patient compliance." - British Medical Journal, August 3, 1996
How Does St. John's Wort Work?
The mechanism of action of St. John's Wort is not clearly understood. Some references suggest that it may act like a SSRI (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) while others suggest that it acts like a MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor). At any rate, it can be predicted that the use of St. John's Wort concurrently with anti-depressant drugs or natural anti-depressants could potentize the effect of both.
St. Johns Wort Dosage Suggestions
The suggested dosage for St. Johns Wort is 200 to 1000 mg. of 0.3% standardized hypericin content per day. Start at the lower dosage and work up slowly. Discontinue if there are any apparent side effects. Do not use if you are taking any anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medications without consulting your physician first.
St. Johns Wort Precautions & Side Effects
Each individual responds differently to prescription medications, herbs, foods and practically everything else. Regardless of any claims that a substance is safe and free of side effects, one should always approach it cautiously. When trying a new substance, get all the information you can, consult your physician if there are any doubts about safety, and start slowly with low dosages.
St. John's Wort has been known to increase photo-sensitivity in animals and may theoretically cause this same reaction in some humans. We recommend that strong sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light (like "tanning booths") be avoided when taking St. John's Wort.
St. John's Wort should not be used by patients taking antidepressant drugs. Combining the two could potentize the affects of each. Other drug interactions have been reported. Read this statement from the National Institute of Mental Health:
"Adverse interactions have been reported between St John's wort (hypericum), an herbal product used to treat depression, and two drugs: indinavir, a protease inhibitor used to treat HIV and cyclosporine, a drug used to reduce the risk of organ transplant rejection. Potentially dangerous changes in drug effects can occur when medications such as cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), digoxin (Lanoxin, Lanoxicaps) and warfarin (Coumadin) are taken with hypericum extracts. Hypericum extracts can decrease the blood levels of antiretroviral medications that are used in the treatment of HIV infection, thus making these drugs less effective. Recent data show that the plasma levels of the protease inhibitor indinavir (Crixivan) were reduced by more than 50% by hypericum (St. Johnís wort) products." - National Institute of Mental Health
For Individuals not taking the medications listed above, St. John's Wort is a treatment option for mild cases of depression.