Also known as Hypericum perforatum.
St. John's Wort is a bushy perennial plant with numerous yellow flowers. It is native to many parts of the
world including Europe and the United States. The plant has been used as an herbal remedy since the Middle Ages.
Many believed it to have magical powers to protect one from evil. Early Christian mystics named the plant after
John the Baptist and is traditionally collected on St. John's Day, June 25.
It has a 2,400-year history of safe and effective usage in many folk and herbal remedies. St. John's Wort is used
as a natural, herbal alternative for the treatment of depression in cases where standard antidepressants (such
as Prozac) would be prescribed. St. John's Wort itself is a plant that grows in the wild and is harvested for
its active ingredient, Hypericum (Hypericin). In Germany, nearly half of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders
are treated with Hypericin. St. John's Wort should not be taken with any other antidepressants.
As there are several different types of antidepressants, ones such as Prozac in particular are commonly referred
to as SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Therefore, St. John's Wort, Prozac, Paxil, et. al.,
are best used for depression that ranges from fairly moderate to relatively serious. That doesn't mean SJW is
necessarily an SSRI; rather, that it is used in similar circumstances. There's actually lots of debate lately about
exactly how the Hypericum (the SJW herb) works, because right now nobody really knows - just that it does seem to work.
One of the best herbs for mood elevation is St. John's Wort. Several controlled studies have shown positive results
in treating patients with mild to moderate depression. Improvement was shown with symptoms of sadness, helplessness,
hopelessness, anxiety, headache and exhaustion with no reported side effects.
Its action is based on the ability of the active ingredient, Hypericin to inhibit the breakdown of neurotransmitters
in the brain. The herb also inhibits monoamine oxidase (MAO) and works as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI); both
are actions similar to drugs prescribed for depression.
The active constituents in the herb (there are over 50) include, as already mentioned, Hypericin and pseudohypericin,
but also flavonoids, tannins and procyanidins. The tannins are responsible for the astringent effect for wound healing.
Hypericin increases capillary blood flow and is a MAO inhibitor.
Common Use: St. John's Wort has been used traditionally as an herbal treatment for anxiety and depression. It is an
effective astringent that promotes wound healing and has antiviral properties that can counter herpes simplex, flu
viruses and is being investigated as a treatment for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).