St. John’s Wort: the natural remedy?

With traces of Prozac® now being found in our drinking water, there is no question that depression is a widespread problem in our society. St. John’s Wort is a popular and natural alternative to conventional antidepressants often dubbed ‘Nature’s Prozac’. Experimental studies have shown one of the key active constituents in St. John’s Wort, hypericin, to potentiate neurotransmitter binding especially the gamma-aminobutyric acid A (GABA-A), benzodiazepine and serotonin receptors. Moreover, another key ingredient, hyperforin, has been shown to contain significant antidepressant activity but it is not entirely clear how since it is an unstable compound that renders it difficult to study. St. John’s Wort is thought to work via a combination of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and monoamine oxidase inhibitor  (MAOI) activity since both have been demonstrated in studies using isolated active constituents.

The other notable properties of St. John’s Wort are often overlooked since media coverage has largely focussed on its antidepressant properties, probabaly because so many people seem to be afflicted with the condition. It is an excellent antiviral, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anodyne (pain reliever) and vulnerary (wound healer). However, the jury is still out on this herb since medical experts remain undecided as to its clinical usefulness; one particular study has shown that it is only marginally more effective than placebo with its effects lessening over time and the list of drug interactions being quite long and varied. Empirical science may not value the synergy of active constituents that lies at the heart of herbal medicine but there is enormous benefit to numerous sufferers of mild to moderate depression who simply cannot do without this wonderful herb.

Read the full article here: st-johns-wort-the-natural-remedy

Mental Health Practice 2004; 8(3): 31rcnpublishing

Mental Health Practice journal is a Royal College of Nursing publication