As it is so popular and controversial, studies regarding the benefits of St Johns Wort are constantly in the news.Although there are many who praise its ability to ease their depression and to help their insomnia, the medical profession continues to have serious doubts about any such claims.
The British Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2005, No. 186, P.99-107) reviewed 37 clinical trials of St. John’s Wort. It said that the larger and more recent trials showed only minor differences compared to a placebo in treating major depression.
Older and smaller trials, which were not restricted to major depression, showed better results for mild to moderate depression.
The skeptics argue that the ideal dosage has yet to be determined and that the trials weren’t long enough. Also, ingredients have not been standardized and commercial products have wide ranges of concentration. Used for centuries as an herb to treat moods, it qualifies for membership in the hall of fame of herbal medicine. We have all heard that its use is extensive in Germany for mild to moderate depression, more than prescription drugs in fact. And, worldwide, probably hundreds of thousands of people are already convinced of the benefits of St Johns Wort in treating their depression.
Is it Just a Placebo?
On and off over the last few years I have taken St. John’s Wort for various periods of time to alleviate my symptoms of depression. On some occasions I really have felt that it had a positive effect. And then, for other periods of time, I felt that it had no effect at all.
Regardless of the clinical trials, many people really believe that the benefits is a reality as it improves their moods and alleviates their mild or moderate depression.
If you were to survey those who take it regularly, they would probably say, “Who cares, it works for me.” And they have a point.
How Does it Work?
No one knows exactly how, but it is thought to have an influence on increasing serotonin absorption in the brain. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression. It may lower levels of Interlukin 6, a protein associated with depression.
I frequently like to think of the benefits, but, before I start taking it the next time, I will read again the following possible side effects that have been reported by manufacturers and researchers.
- It may cause increased sensitivity to light
- It may cause anxiety, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, sexual dysfunction
- It may adversely interact with prescription drugs used for depression, birth control and Cyclosporine (used to prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs)
- It may interfere with Digoxin, Digitalis, Warfarin, Indivar used for HIV treatment and the anti-cancer drug Irinotecan
- It may interfere with pregnancy
Can Your Doctor Help?
Yes, this is serious stuff and the advice, “consult with your doctor first before starting any alternative medicine,” is always worth repeating.In fact, many doctors complain that their patients, during a visit, are not informing them that they are taking alternative medicine. There is the belief that as it is “natural,” and as it doesn’t require a prescription, it will not interfere with any medication they are prescribed. “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe.”
On the other hand, your doctor may not be aware of these potential side effects or even the benefits. And if it were me, if my doctor were not aware of such common knowledge, I would be looking for another doctor.
Many would argue that, compared to prescription anti-depressant drugs, you would see far fewer side-effects of St. John’s Wort if you took the time to make such a comparison. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be taking professional advice even if it is true.
St. John’s Wort is not going to fade away. Many people are convinced of its effectiveness and have experienced no side effects at all. Health stores sell tons of it yearly.
Will I Take it Again?
Yes. As I have experience the benefits of St Johns Wort in the past. I will be staying with one brand to begin with though. At least in this way I will be getting some standardization. Considering all that has been said, one brand may work for you better than another. With products such as these, a quality and well-known brand that has been in production a long time is what I would choose, regardless of price.
Taking a St Johns Wort supplement may fit nicely with a nutritional cleansing program. By nutritionally supporting the organs of elimination, we can greatly accelerate the removal of impurities from our bodies which our toxic world bombards us with daily.
Nutritional cleansing is another powerful way of influencing the mind positively by taking care of our bodies first.