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St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a plant with yellow flowers that
people in European countries have used for centuries to treat mild to moderate
depression. In the United States, it is sold as a
dietary supplement and can be found at health food stores and pharmacies.
St. John's wort is
used in the short-term treatment of mild to moderate depression. One study
found that St. John's wort may also be effective in treating moderate to severe
It may take up to 2
to 3 weeks for St. John's wort to improve depressive symptoms. Not all
preparations of St. John's wort are the same. A standardized form means the
amount of St. John's wort is the same in every capsule.
St. John's wort causes
fewer side effects (such as digestive discomfort or headaches) than
antidepressant medicines, although it may cause a rash with sun
St. John's wort may interact with medicines used to
treat some other illnesses, such as
AIDS. It is important to let your doctor or pharmacist
know if you want to try St. John's wort so that he or she can determine whether
it might interfere with other medicines you are taking.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not
regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicines. A dietary
supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or
if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional
medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical
treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important
for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
When using dietary
supplements, keep in mind the following:
CitationsSzegedi A, et al. (2005). Acute treatment of moderate
to severe depression with hypericum extract WS 5570 (St. John's wort):
Randomised controlled double blind non-inferiority trial versus paroxetine.
BMJ, 330(7490): 503–508.
June 29, 2011
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD - Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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