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How To Use St. John’s wort For Anxiety And Depression

Anxiety and depression are common epidemics, nowadays. Every person is suffering from stress in the modern mechanical world of today. There are numerous reasons for these conditions.

People often look for means of overcoming their conditions which include medication and therapies. The chemical based drugs have many other side effects besides treating anxiety and depression.

Therefore, more and more individuals are searching for treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects.

What is St John’s wort?

St. John’s wort is a herb that was used for the treatment of various health issues predominantly anxiety and depression in Europe. It is scientifically called Hypericum perforatum.

It is also referred to as Perforate St. John’s wort or Klamath weed Tipton’s Weed. It is a kind of flowery shrub bears yellow colored flowers that have oval and elongated petals. The flowers, as well as leaves, are useful for their medicinal value.

St. John’s Wort is a distinctive type of antidepressant that is quite effective, affordable and is available as an over-the-counter herbal supplement in the form of tea, tablets, topical treatment, and capsules.

It has been used for the medical purposes since the ancient times. At that time, it was used for the treatment of low energy levels, mood, and poor sleeping.

How does St John’s wort work?

The plant is known to have active chemical component hypericin while others include hyperforin and flavonoids.

How St. John’s work for the treatment of anxiety and depression is not precisely known, but it most likely works as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) like fluoxetine, or Prozac which helps to increase the secretion of the chemical in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

These are neurotransmitters that help to elevate mood. Previously it was believed that hypericin is only responsible for it, but now studies suggest that other chemicals may also play a role in decreasing depression and improve mood.

Not all the research studies, however, agree with the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for anxiety and depression.

But these studies have also been weighed against the studies that show its efficacy similar to that of drugs like Prozac, Celexa, paroxetine (Paxil), and Zoloft.

St. John’s wort for anxiety and depression

The use of st. john’s wort for anxiety and depression treatment has been widely studies in numerous scientific research studies. There are mixed studies that show its effectiveness for anxiety treatment.

  • In 2009 a systematic review was done of 29 international scientific studies. The report suggested that the use of St. John’s wort may be as effective as placebo and may also be as effective as the standardly prescribed medication for mild to moderate depression.It also showed to have lesser side effects as compared to the standard antidepressants available in the market. The research studies were done in German-speaking countries (where it has a long-term history of being used as a medicine by medical experts) showed more favorable outcomes than the studies done in non-German speaking countries.
  • Another study conducted in 2011 did not show any positive results of the use of both St. John’s wort and antidepressant medicines for decreasing the symptoms of minor depression.
  • A study conducted in 2002, the use of St. John’s wort was found to be no more effective than the placebo in the treatment of major depression having moderate severity.
  • The preliminary research studies suggested that St John’s wort may help in preventing the nerve cells from re-absorption of certain chemical messengers in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin.
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The use of St. John’s wort has also been researched for the treatment of various mood disorders like severe depression, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorders), seasonal effective mood disorders and anxiety disorders.

However, the research studies conducted to show effectiveness for these uses have not given any substantial evidence in its support, so far.

Available forms of St John’s wort

It is available in various forms including powder, capsules, tea, tinctures and skin lotions with the oil base.

You can also find it in chopped and powdered form. Most of these products are standardized to have 0.3% of hypericin.

Dosage of St. John’s wort for anxiety and depression

According to WebMD.com, University of Maryland Medical Center, Anxiety anddepressionguide.org and NCBI study, for treatment of depression, the standard dosage is 300 mg for adults (0.3% of hypericin extract) taken a day thrice.

After preliminary treatment, many people choose a lower maintenance dose of St. John’s wort that is from 300mg to 600mg a day.

If you intend to take its tea or in a liquid form, then it is better to consult your physician to determine the suitable dose.

It may be from 3 to 6 weeks until you start experiencing the effects of St. John’s Wort.

Possible side effects

There are few temporary side effects of St. John’s wort which may occur. If you take it in recommended doses, then side effects are minimal. Some of the common side effects include;

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach upset
  • Dizziness
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sexual problems in both men and women which include reduced sex drive, delayed ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction or problems to have an orgasm.


In following cases, the use of St. John’s wort is not recommended for:

  • Pregnant women or who intend to become pregnant.
  • Children.
  • Those women who are using birth control pills as they become less effective.
  • Breastfeeding Mothers.
  • People who are already using any of the SSRI anti-depressants because it can lead to the development of serotonin syndrome.
  • The people suffering from bipolar disorder as it can trigger mania or hypomania.

Possible interactions

There is a variety of medicines that interact with St. John’s wort. In some cases, it may make medicines less effective. While in other instances, it may make the effects stronger.

If you are already on some medication, it is necessary that you consult your doctor before using  St. John’s wort because of its interactions with various kinds of medicines which include but not limited to;

  • Antidepressants
  • Allergy medicines
  • Drugs to suppress immune system
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Dextromethorphan (cough medicine)
  • Digoxin
  • Drugs that fight HIV
  • Birth control pills
  • Aminolevulinic acid
  • Reserpine
  • Sedatives
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Theophylline
Ruth Hadfield
Ruth has been a freelance medical writer for the past five years, ranging from academic papers to blog posts to magazine articles. Her speciality is writing product reviews and medical instruments. Besides writing she is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree, living in New York with her mother.

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