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St. John’s Wort

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St. John’s Wort or Hypericum perforatum is a flowering plant of the Hypericum family. It is also considered a nootropic. The herb is native to Asia and Europe but has spread to temperate regions of the world including Africa and the US. Hypericum perforatum has been used for generations due to its anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties. In the first century, Greek physicians recommended the use of St. John’s wort for its medicinal value while ancient people believed that the herb had mystical powers. The name “St John’s wort” is derived from the fact that it flowers on 24th of June, St. John’s Day.

Health benefits of the plant

  • Anti-depressant
  • Addiction and withdrawal treatment
  • Menopausal mood swing treatment
  • Regulating hormones
  • Antiviral agent
  • Fights inflammation
  • John’s Wort doses
  • Where to buy St. John’s Wort

Health benefits of the plant

Anti-depressant

Various studies have shown that the herb is highly effective in treating people suffering from mild to moderate depression. In most of these studies, the herbal extract was shown to work as effectively as other conventional antidepressants commonly known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

SSRIs such as citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac and sertraline (Zoloft) inhibit or delay the reuptake of specific nuerostrasmitters including norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Unlike other SSRIs the herb does not seem to bring severe side effects such as loss of sex drive.

Researchers are not yet sure how the herb works to alleviate symptoms of depression. However, there seems to be a general consensus that it increases the availability of brain chemicals such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. These are the neurotransmitters responsible for improving mood and alleviating symptoms associated with depression.

Studies involving rats in forced swimming tests, a model for animal depression, noticed that administration of the herb induced a significant reduction of immobility. In other experimental studies modes of depression, administration of the herb’s extract was shown to help rats cope better with unavoidable stress.

Apart from helping to relieve symptoms of depression, St. John’s wort is also known for helping people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression related to changes in seasons and normally occurs during winter due to the absence of adequate sunlight. SAD is normally treated using phototherapy, however, a combination of light therapy and St. John’s wort works even better to manage the mental disorder.

While researchers thought the chemical responsible for alleviating depression is hypericin, they now believe that other chemicals in St. John’s wort such as hyperforin and flavonoids also help in the process.

Addiction and withdrawal treatment

People who have overcome dependency habits know that the path to recovery is long and flawed since they often struggle to break their addictions. And as they seek to break off their addiction, they have to contend with withdrawal symptoms which can be equally nasty. In some instances, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.

Though scientists are still researching on how St. John Wort assists recovering addicts, there is strong evidence that the herb is helpful in reducing cravings which make it hard to break addiction as well as easing withdrawal symptoms.

Menopausal mood swing treatment

Women often have to contend with mood swings during two distinct phases of their lives: during the pre-menstrual period and the menopausal phase. Both of these phases comes with their own challenges including mood swings, and cramping and depression.

Regulating hormones

The active ingredients in St. John wort come in handy for hormonal regulation. Hypothyroidism is among one of the conditions where the herb is widely used. The herb is highly effective in regulating the production of the thyroid hormone to keep the body functioning optimally.

Antiviral agent

Emerging evidence indicates that St. John’s wort contains antiviral capabilities. As a result, it is effective in reduction, management, and prevention of viral conditions such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Though the herb has shown a lot of promise in combating viral conditions, it is important to note that in order to be effective, high doses are required which can cause unpleasant side effects including photosensitivity. To find the perfect balance, scientists are conducting more research into how the herb can work against viral infections without serious side effects.

Fights inflammation

St. John’s wort has antibacterial properties and is known to fight inflammation-the root cause of most diseases. The herb contains anti-inflammatory properties due to its ability to inhibit effects of pro-inflammatory genes such as inducible nitric-oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase-2, and interleukin-6. These are the genes that play a critical role in chronic inflammatory diseases.

Extracts of St. John’s wort have been used for years to treat cuts and lesions. It is useful in managing inflammation and appears to have great capabilities in serving as an antibacterial agent.

In 2003, a study conducted at Freiburg University Clinic in Germany, Department of Dermatology, 18 patients suffering from eczema were treated with the herb’s extract for about 4 weeks. After the treatment, the severity of inflammation improved significantly and their skin tolerance improved.

St. John’s wort doses

Preparations for St. John’s wort extract may vary in chemical content and quality. However, it can be standardized to the quantity of hyperforin mostly 3-5 percent or hypericin 0.3 percent.

Clinical trials for St. John’s wort for treating depression commonly use 900mg of the extract daily in 3 divided doses for short-term therapy and 600mg to 1200mg daily for ongoing treatment up to 1 year.

St. John’s wort in all its forms should be regarded as a pharmacologically active agent. As a result, you should not start taking it without consulting your physician. In addition, you should not use the herb if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or together with epilepsy drugs and contraceptive pills.

St. John’s wort side effects

Though St. John’s wort is a great herb with many health benefits and is well tolerated, it has its own downsides. Side effects associated with the herb include abdominal pain, dry mouth, fatigue, and headache. Other possible side effects include photosensitivity, confusion, and mental excitement.