Tag Archives: supplement

St. John’s Wort – A Controversial Supplement

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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Medication Safety Tips (Part 2)


According to the CDC, each year there are hundreds of thousands of ER visits due to medication complications and mishaps. Most of these incidents could have been prevented with the proper medication care. We looked at our first 5 medication safety tips in our last post, now for the next few:

6. Always check the ingredients. Aside from checking for potential allergenic filler ingredients, you should also know how much of the active ingredient is in each medication you’re taking as it is easier to overdose on OTC medications than you may think. For example, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) is camouflaged in many OTC and prescription medications such as decongestants and cold medicine. In fact, over 600 North American medications contain acetaminophen! So if you are taking the maximum dose of extra strength Tylenol for aches and pains, along with another acetaminophen-containing medication you may be risking serious problems.

7. Practice caffeine caution. Some medications don’t react well with caffeine, so be sure not to chase them with a large iced tea or coffee unless the pharmacist says it is okay.

8. Make sure all medications are inaccessible to children and pets. Even 1 pill or supplement can harm a child, let alone if they happen to get into a whole bottle. Keep your medications tucked away on a high shelf or in a cabinet that can’t be accessed by little ones.

9. Use steroid creams sparingly. Unless it has been okayed by your doctor or pharmacist, be sure not to use topical steroid creams too heavily as they can potentially thin the skin (atrophy), especially in sensitive areas.

10. Know if it is safe to drink alcohol. Some medications can be dangerous when combined with alcohol.

11. Don’t discontinue medications before consulting your doctor or specialist. It isn’t a good idea to stop taking medications without first consulting your doctor, unless of course you are having an allergic reaction. In which case, seek emergency medical attention.

12. Rinse your mouth out after using puffers. Puffers can cause thrush (yeast infection) of the mouth if you do not rinse the medication out of your mouth after use. Some other medications may have similar instructions to follow, so be sure to check the label every time.

Well there you have the rest of our medication do’s and don’ts! Click here for more information about how to correctly take different medications. Thanks for visiting DocChat! Remember, our board certified physicians are on standby 24/7/365 if you have any medical or medication related inquiries.