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St. John’s Wort – A Controversial Supplement

Written by Courteney

Posted on December 21, 2016 at 1:16 am

St. John’s Wort is a herbal supplement made from a tall flowering plant called Hypericum perforatum that has yellow star-shaped petals. St. John’s Wort has been used for centuries as a homeopathic remedy for an array of ailments spanning the healing of wounds, to ‘hallucinations” and more recently, depression. Only a couple of its uses have been scientifically backed. It has gained quite the reputation for bring problematic, as it can cause serious interactions with other supplements and medications, as well as adverse side effects.

Herb of Many Names

St. John’s Wort goes by many other names as well which include (but are not limited to):

  • Perforate
  • Amber
  • Barbe de Saint-Jean
  • Demon Chaser
  • Fuga Daemonum
  • Goatweed
  • Tipton’s weed
  • Klamath weed

St. John’s Wort and Depression

The most conclusive studies conducted on the supplement have been on its potential efficacy in managing symptoms of depression. Reputable studies have observed that St. John’s Wort performed better than placebos when it came to helping manage symptoms of mild-to-moderate depressive disorder. It is not meant to replace prescribed medication for depression but in some cases, may effectively supplement treatment. Studies have not proven if St. John’s Wort can help depression in children, as studies have only been performed on adults with the condition. Research also suggests mild potential benefits for OCD sufferers as well as atopic dermatitis.

St. John’s Wort and Other Ailments

Research has proven inconclusive on the treatment or curative properties of St. John’s Wort for other conditions such as: seasonal affective disorder (SAD), anxiety, ADHD, pain, PMS or severe depression. More studies are needed to prove any benefit for these conditions.

Potential Side Effects

As is the case with most medications and supplements, St. John’s Wort is not risk-free. Side effects that have been reported include: trouble sleeping (insomnia in some cases), fatigue, anxiety and irritability, diarrhea, headaches, skin rash, photo-sensitivity and restlessness.

Dangerous Interactions

Research and consumer reports have shown that taking St. John’s Wort can render oral contraceptives (birth control) ineffective. Furthermore, dangerous interactions could occur when St. John’s Wort is taken with such medications as: Warfarin, SSRI antidepressants, cyclosporine, digoxin, antiretroviral medications (used to treat HIV), theophylline or certain migraine medications. Due to the many potential interactions St. John’s Wort may cause, it is of vital importance to talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking before trying St. John’s Wort.

A Contentious Remedy

Because of all the potential drug interactions and side effects St. John’s Wort is associated with, it is actually banned in certain countries like France. In some countries it is only available through prescription so the doctor must sign off before the patient can begin taking it. Recently, countries like Canada are required to update St. John’s Wort labels to include adequate warnings about the potential issues the supplement can cause.

The Bottom Line

While it may certainly provide benefits to certain patients that would outweigh its risks, overall it is regarded is a controversial supplement within the medical community and should be used with caution (especially when it comes to those with cardiovascular disease or people taking birth control).

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