What is St John’s Wort?
St. John’s wort is a plant with yellow, star-shaped flowers and five petals that grow in Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Eastern Asia. It is considered a herbal remedy, which for centuries, has been considered a magic cure for mental health conditions. It is most commonly associated with mental health, working in a similar way to prescription antidepressant and anxiety medication.
Studies have found that it increases the activity of brain chemicals such as serotonin and noradrenaline, which are thought to play a major role in regulating your mood.
Its botanical name is Hypericum perforatum, and it is sometimes marketed and sold as ‘Hypericum’. As well as hypericin and hyperforin, the plant contains many other substances that enhance its antidepressant capabilities.
History of St John’s Wort
St John’s wort is a herbal remedy that has been used for hundreds of years to treat mental health problems. Once thought to be a magical plant, it has had a myriad of uses of the centuries, including keeping witches away, warding off evil and troubled spirits by healers. In the 19th century, just as it is today, it was used as a cure for melancholia.
What is St John’s Wort used for?
St. John’s wort is most commonly used for mental health conditions including anxiety and depression, along with sleeping disorders and fatigue.
Its other uses include heart palpitations, moodiness and other symptoms of menopause, mental disorders that present physical symptoms, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobia, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
St. John’s wort has been tried to help quit smoking, for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), burning feelings in the mouth, migraine and other types of headaches, muscle pain, nerve pain and nerve damage throughout the body, pain that travels down the sciatic nerve in the leg, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also used for cancer (including brain cancer), HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, herpes simplex, to help with a procedure to unblock clogged arteries, weight loss, and to treat a disease that causes the skin to lose color.
St John’s Wort for depression and anxiety
As mentioned, St John’s wort’s connection to depression and related mental health issues such as anxiety goes back many years. Today it is still used for low mood as a natural alternative to prescription antidepressants. If you do experience depression it is always best to speak to your doctor about it to find out what the best method of approach to dealing with it is for you.
St John’s Wort for menopause & PMS
One of the lesser-known uses for St John’s wort is tackling the symptoms of PMS and menopause. Because of its positive effects on mood, St. John’s wort has been used to alleviate and naturally remedy PMS symptoms, such as depression, chronic fatigue and hormonal imbalance.
According to a study by the Institute of Psychological Sciences, it was found to be far superior to placebos in dealing with physical and behavioural symptoms.
St. John’s wort has also been proven to relieve the psychological and vegetative symptoms of menopause. A study published in Advance Therapy investigated 12 weeks of treatment with St. John’s wort; 111 women, ages 43 to 65, took one 900 milligram tablet three times daily. All of the participants experienced symptoms characteristic of the pre- and postmenopausal state. The treatment outcome was evaluated by the Menopause Rating Scale, a self-designed questionnaire for assessing sexuality, and the Clinical Global Impression scale.
To test the results, the incidence and severity of typical psychological, psychosomatic and vasomotor symptoms were recorded after five, eight and 12 weeks of treatment. Substantial improvement in psychological and psychosomatic symptoms was observed, and menopausal complaints diminished or disappeared completely in 76 percent of the women; in addition to this, sexual well-being also improved after treatment, displaying that St. John’s wort uses include providing natural menopause relief.
Precautions & side effects of St John’s Wort
Of course, you should always do extensive research before attempting any kind of self-medication, herbal or otherwise. St. John’s wort is known to affect how the body uses and breaks down a number of drugs and can cause serious side effects.
Applying it directly to your skin can cause serious sensitivity to sunlight. Combining St. John’s wort and other antidepressants can lead to a potentially life-threatening increase in serotonin levels – a condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms range from tremor and diarrhoea to very dangerous confusion, muscle stiffness, drop in body temperature, and even death.
Psychosis is a rare but possible side effect of taking St. John’s wort, particularly in people who have or are at risk for mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder.