St John's Wort

Background

St. John’s wort, also known as Hypericum Perforatum, is an anti-depressant herb that is commonly used for its neurological effects. It is a plant with yellow flowers that has been used in traditional European medicine as far back as the ancient Greeks where it was used for a range of illnesses, including various nervous disorders. It is St. John’s wort apparently because the plant blooms around the time of the feast of St. John the Baptist in late June and the word “wort” is an old English word for plant. Currently, St. John’s wort is most often used as a dietary supplement for depression.[1] While it appears effective, it is well known to adversely interact with a variety of pharmaceuticals or medications making the medications less effective. However, you will find more powerful mood boosters available in the class of nootropics.

Benefits

St. John’s wort has been used as a medicinal herb for its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties for hundreds of years. Now the supplement is most commonly used to naturally remedy depression and symptoms, such as anxiety, tiredness, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. People also use it to relieve heart palpitations, moodiness, symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and symptoms of menopause.[2]
St. John’s wort has also been used for a variety of conditions, including kidney and lung ailments, insomnia, and depression, and to aid wound healing. The following are the most proven benefits of St. John’s wort.

  • Reduces depression[8]
  • Reduces mild anxiety and sleep problems[9]
  • Enhances memory[10]
  • Relieves PMS symptoms[11]
  • Improves mood during menopause
  • Reduces inflammation and skin irritations[12]
  • Improves symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder[13]
  • Has anti-cancer properties[14]
  • Is used against attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)[15]

Actually, St. John’s wort is beneficial to treatment of mental health problems. It has antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties. For its anti-inflammatory properties, St. John’s wort has been applied to the skin to help heal wounds and burns.[3]
Recently studies conducted to investigate the nootropic effect of St. John’s wort in normal human subjects. Some studies in animals have suggested that St. John’s wort may have memory-enhancing effects.[4]

How it works

St. John’s Wort supplement is known to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. It is thought to work by inhibiting the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter Serotonin within the brain, thereby increasing Serotonin activity. This neurotransmitter has an inhibitory effect on the firing of neurons, resulting in a reduction of symptoms of anxiety.
St. John’s Wort herbal extract supplements have some active ingredients and hypercin is considered to be the main agent by most experts. Hyperforin is also another ingredient present in this supplement and it has been shown to have anti-depressive effects as well. Studies done recently suggest that plant components known as flavonoids and tannins might play a role in the methods of action.[5][6]

Considerations

St. John’s wort is generally considered safe when used orally in appropriate doses. However, it can cause several side effects, such as agitation, anxiety, burning or prickling sensation, dizziness, diarrhea, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, increased sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity), insomnia, irritability, low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), restlessness, stomach discomfort and vivid dreams.
Also avoid using St. John’s wort during pregnancy or while breast-feeding. You are suggested to consult your doctor before using St. John’s wort in combination with any prescription drug.[7]

Recommendations

The recommended dosage range for St. John’s Wort supplement in the extract form can be between 900 and 1,800 mg per day. As herbal supplements are always subject to lower quality controls than those which can be produced in a lab environment, it’s important for you to determine the purity of any extract you are going to use. Consult your doctor before deciding whether to use St. John’s Wort.

Sources