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St. John's Wort

Botanical name(s):

Hypericum Perforatum. Family: Hypericaceae

Other name(s):

amber, goatweed, hardhay, hyperici herba, klamath weed, tipton weed

General description:

St. John's wort is an herb with a five-petaled yellow flower that grows in much of the world. It is named after St. John the Baptist because it blooms around his celebration day (June 24). The medicinal element of the plant consists of the dried above-ground parts, including the stem, petals and flowers.

St. John's wort flowers contain dianthrone (hypericin) and flavonoids (quercetin, rutin), which potentially help treat depression. Other pharmacological benefits include anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immunomodulating activities.

Medically valid uses:

St. John's wort has been used successfully to treat mild to moderate depression. Several studies have indicated that it is as effective as many prescription antidepressants when used to treat mild or moderate depression. St. John's wort is not useful for treating major or severe depression. 

Externally, oily hypericum preparations have been used in the treatment of injuries, muscle pain and first-degree burns.

Unsubstantiated claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Traditionally, St. John's wort has been used as a muscle relaxant to relieve menstrual cramps and as a mild tranquilizer.

Although without scientific confirmation, it is also claimed to function as a nerve tonic (has a beneficial effect on the nervous system), as an anti-inflammatory (decreases swelling), as an astringent (contracts the tissues or canals of the body), as a vulnerary (brings about healing in wounds and inflammation), as a antineoplastic (cancer fighting) and as an antiviral. For instance, it is claimed that it may possibly help inhibit viral infections, including herpes and HIV.

St. John's wort has also been claimed to be good for nerve pain (neuralgia), anxiety, tension, nervous debility, stress, irritability and insomnia. It is also claimed to ease the pain associated with fibrositis, sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis, menstruation, itching and burning of hemorrhoids, and itching and irritation caused by vaginitis.

When used externally, St. John's wort has been claimed to possibly speed the healing of bruises, wounds, varicose veins, mild burns and sunburns.

Dosing format:

St. John's wort comes in many forms including oil, dried herb, tea and salve.

Unless otherwise prescribed or directed on the label, the dosage is 3 g per day. Results are gradual and may take four to six weeks before positive changes are noticeable. If no results are achieved, alternative therapy should be considered.

Side effects, toxicity and interactions:

St. John's wort has been shown to interfere with medications that prevent organ rejection after an organ transplant. If you will be getting an organ transplant or have had one, do not use St. John's wort.

St. John's wort can cause sensitivity to the sun when taken in large amounts, especially in fair-skinned people. Avoid sun exposure as much as possible, and use a sunscreen whenever sun exposure is expected. Do not take enormous quantities of St. John's wort. Follow package directions.

Do not take St. John's wort if you suffer from major depression, or are taking another psychoactive agent.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any herbal supplements.

St. John's wort can interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals.

Additional information:

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