|St. John's wort is a bushy
perennial plant with numerous yellow flowers. St. John's wort
native to many parts of the
world including Europe and the United States. It is
a wild growing plant
in northern California, southern Oregon and Colorado.
St. John's wort 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,
soaked in olive oil for days to produce a blood red
anointing oil known as the
"blood of Christ."
It has a 2,400-year
history of safe and effective usage in many folk and herbal
remedies. Historically used
as a nerve tonic, St. John's wort is now widely used
as a mild antidepressant.
It is a potent antiviral and antibacterial that is being
investigated as a treatment
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
was shown with symptoms of sadness, helplessness,
hopelessness, anxiety, headache
and exhaustion with no reported side effects.
St. John's wort 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. 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, it is not effective for
severe depression, and no
one should stop taking any prescribed medications
for depression without proper
St. John's wort has been
administered in the treatment of many illnesses. The
most well known action of
St. John's wort is in repairing nerve damage and
reducing pain and inflammation.
The herb has been used to relieve menstrual
cramping, sciatica, and
arthritis. It has a favorable action on the secretion of
bile and thus soothes the
The blossoms have been used
in folk medicine to relieve ulcers, gastritis,
diarrhea and nausea. St.
John's wort can also be effective in the treatment of
incontinence and bed-wetting
in children. Externally it is used on cuts as a
disinfectant and to relieve
inflammation and promote healing. The oil can be
applied to sprains, bruises
and varicose veins. Folk medicine has also has used
it as a treatment for cancer.
The active constituents
in St. John's wort (there are over 50) include hypericin and
tannins and procyanidins. The tannins are
responsible for the astringent
effect for wound healing. Hypericin increases
capillary blood flow and
is a MAO inhibitor.
There are many studies documenting
the clinical effects of hypericum as an
similar to several synthetic antidepressants, but with a
minimum of side effects.
Hypericin has been demonstrated to increase theta
waves in the brain. Theta
waves normally occur during sleep and have been
associated with deep meditation,
serene pleasure and heightened creative
activity. St. John's wort
effectually may improve perception and clarify thinking
There have been incidences
of photosensitization as a side effect in animals.
Anyone who is hypersensitive
to sunlight or is taking other photosensitizing
drugs should be cautious.
Parts Used: Herb tops
and flowers. Used as a tea, extract, oil and in tablet form.
Common Use: St. John's
wort has been used traditionally as an herbal
treatment for anxiety and depression. It is an effective astringent that
wound healing and has antiviral
properties that can counter herpes simplex, flu
viruses and is being investigated
as a treatment for acquired immunodeficiency
Note: If you are pregnant
or lactating or taking anti-depressants like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, check
with your physician before taking St. John's wort.