St. John’s Wort (as a Natural Antidepressant)
St. John’s Wort, also called hypericum perforatum, is a flowering plant used as a medicinal herb due to its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties for over 2000 years.
Scientists believe that the herb may be native to Europe, the western United States and parts of Africa and Asia.
It was given its name because the flowers bloom around June 24th on the birthday of John the Baptist. “Wort” is an old English term for plant. It is one of top treatments in Germany and is being studied thoroughly by the scientific advisory panel to the German government, Commission E.
The chemicals in St. John’s wort, mainly hyperforin, hypericin and pseudohypericin are involved in the herb’s antidepressant properties. Certain studies showed that more than one of these chemicals seemed to delay or diminish reuptake of neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. In case you haven’t heard of these before, neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages in your body from nerve cells to other cells in your body.
When messages are delivered to your body cells, the neurotransmitters are reabsorbed and switched off by the cells that release them. However, the chemicals in St. John’s wort prevent this from happening, allowing the body to have more of these neurotransmitters available for use.
St. John’s wort is a popular herbal remedy for unpleasant menopause symptoms including, anxiety and depression, constant fatigue, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations and loss of appetite. It is also used for mood swings, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
One study published in the journal, Advance in Therapy, investigated the effects of St. John’s wort on 111 women of ages 43 to 65 over a course of 12 weeks. The subjects were given a 900 mg tablet thrice a day and treatment outcomes were measured using the Menopause Rating Scale, the Clinical Global Impression scale and a questionnaire to assess sexuality. Psychological, mental and vasomotor symptoms were recorded to test results after five, eight and 12 weeks following treatment. Researchers observed significant improvement in psychological and mental symptoms. Results showed that common menopause symptoms either decreased or disappeared completely in 76 percent of the participants. Women also showed an improvement in their sexual wellbeing.
Natural Antidepressant Effects
Most of us aren’t strangers to the side effects of prescription antidepressants. Taking natural mood enhancers such as St. John’s wort doesn’t only help improve anxiety and depression, it also leads to fewer side effects than prescription drugs. One major side effect of prescription antidepressants is loss of sex drive. Scientists have found that St. John’s wort can have the opposite effect on the body, improving women’s sexual wellbeing, as mentioned earlier.
Many studies show that St. John’s wort functions such as well as selective serotonin reuptake inhibits (SSRIs) – a commonly used antidepressant, which includes popular names such as Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that scientists aren’t sure about how the herb works on mood, but some suggest that it may be similar to SSRI as it helps the body produce more mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
St. John’s wort also helps improve mood in individuals with SAD – a classification of depression that occurs in the winter months when people aren’t exposed to enough sunlight. Some studies show that St. John’s wort and light therapy may work well in treating winter blues.
Note that St. John’s wort may interact with your medications, so make sure you consult your doctor before taking it – especially, if you’re already taking medications for depression.
St. John’s wort helps maintain a hormonal balance in the body, helping a woman’s metabolism and biological clock return to normal working conditions. In addition, this helps reduce mood swings, fatigue, irritability and poor sleep.
Some claim that the herb may reduce symptoms of hypothyroidism as well by regulating levels of the thyroid hormone.
St. John’s wort is a soothing herb with a rich concentration in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, making it a great remedy for muscle aches, fatigue, joint discomfort and arthritis pain. The herb eases inflammation in the skin, gut and the cardiovascular system as well, thus, helping blood pressure levels return to normal. This also reduces stress on the heart, improving overall cardiovascular function.
St. John’s wort exhibits its anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its inhibitory effects on pro-inflammatory genes that play a major role in chronic inflammatory diseases. Some of these genes include interleukin-6, cyclooxygenase-2 and inducible nitric-oxide synthase. St. John’s wort extracts have been used for thousands of years to heal cuts and abrasions as well.
One German study investigated the effects of St. John’s wort on 18 patients with eczema. Patients were treated two types a day for four weeks. Results showed that the severity of the skin lesions improved where treatment was used.