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St Johns Wort For Anxiety And Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that affects how you think, feel and go about your everyday activities such as working, eating, sleeping, etc. According to the WHO, over 300 million people across the globe suffer from depression and it is estimated that in the US alone, 1 in 10 adults are affected by it.

St Johns Wort For Anxiety And Depression

There are several drugs that are used to treat anxiety and depression effectively; however, some people opt to use alternative or natural remedies and one such natural remedy that has been widely used for the treatment of depression is St. John’s Wort.


What Is St. John’s Wort?

St. John’s Wort or Hypericum perforatum, also known by other names such as Hypericum, Perforatum, Klamath weed, Tipton’s weed, etc. is a perennial herb that belongs to the Hypericaceae family. The plant gets its name from its star-shaped, bright yellow-colored flowers that bloom during the birthday of St. John the Baptist.

St. John’s Wort is found in several parts of Eastern Asia, Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand. The herb has medicinal properties and its use can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was used to treat several ailments including nervous conditions.

St Johns Wort For Anxiety and Depression

The flowers and buds of the St. John’s Wort are either dried and used in the form of tea ‘leaves’ or capsules or it is pressed to make liquid and oil extracts. Today, St. John’s Wort is very popular as an herbal remedy and although it is not approved as a medicine by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), it is used commonly to treat depression and conditions associated with depression-like SAD (seasonal affective disorder), anxiety and sleep disorders.


How Does St. John’s Wort Work?

St. John’s Wort contains many active ingredients such as hyperforin, hypericin, adhyperforin and flavonoids which give it its medicinal properties are often used as a popular treatment for depression and other ailments.

The herb may have properties that make it work like an antidepressant and so it is used as a popular natural remedy for mild depression. St. John’s Wort may also possess antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is commonly used to treat wounds and burns, menopausal symptoms, PMS symptoms and nervous symptoms.


How Does St. John’s Wort Help To Treat Anxiety And Depression?

Although its exact effects are not understood and the benefits are still being explored, several studies reveal the therapeutic benefits of St. John’s Wort for treating mild to moderate depression.

The herb has several active biological and chemical compounds that may help depression by increasing the levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline i.e., the chemical messengers in your brain, which in turn, help to regulate and lift your mood.

It has been seen that St. John’s Wort works as effectively as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in helping to treat depression.

St. John’s Wort may also be as effective as other antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft (sertraline) and Prozac (fluoxetine), which are commonly used to treat depression.

Many studies support the use and effectiveness of St. John’s Wort to treat depression. It was also seen that people who took St. John’s Wort to treat depression tended to continue their treatment as compared to people taking antidepressant medications.

This is probably because the herb is natural and does not cause as many side effects as antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRI (serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor), tetracyclic and tricyclic antidepressants, NRI (noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor) and NaSSAs (specific serotonergic antidepressant agents). St. John’s wort also does not cause the loss of sex drive, which is a common side effect of other antidepressant medications.

A 2016 review, which examined 35 different studies related to the use of St. John’s Wort for the treatment of depression revealed that:

  • When compared to a placebo, St. John’s Wort helped to reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
  • When compared to prescription antidepressants, St. John’s Wort helped to reduce the symptoms to a similar extent.
  • Has fewer side effects as compared to antidepressants.
  • Does not reduce sex drive, which is a very common side effect of prescribed antidepressants.

A 2018 study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which examined 29 clinical trials (with around 5,489 participants) published previously compared the effects of the use of St. John’s Wort to a regular antidepressant or placebo administered to participants for 4-6 weeks.

It was found that the St. John’s Wort was as effective as the regular antidepressants but more effective than the placebo. Further, the herb did not have as many side effects.

Another analysis examined 27 studies that compared antidepressant medication and St. John’s Wort, which revealed that the herb has similar effects as compared to the antidepressant medications of mild to moderate depression.

It was also seen that compared to antidepressant medications, fewer patients stopped taking St. John’s Wort, which could be because the herb does not have as many side effects as antidepressants.

Another study showed that 251 participants who took around 900 mg to 1,800 mg of St. John’s Wort for a period of 6 weeks experienced a reduction of their depression score by 56.6% as compared to people who took antidepressants and saw a reduction of 44.8%.

Another controlled research study comprising 241 individuals taking either an antidepressant or St. John’s Wort found that around 70.45% of the people who were taking the antidepressant experienced a reduction in their symptoms, while around 70% of the people taking St. John’s Wort experienced a reduction.


St Johns Wort For Anxiety And Depression: Wrapping Up

In conclusion, it has been seen that St. John’s Wort is a popular natural treatment that has shown to be beneficial in treating mild to moderate depression, with fewer side effects compared to antidepressant medications.

The herb is also used to treat many other ailments such as healing wounds and burns, reducing menopause and PMS symptoms.

However, as with all types of medications and herbs, it is always recommended to check with your doctor before you start taking St. John’s Wort to treat depression, lest it does more harm than good.

Rosemary Richards
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