St. John’s Wort helps cure the blues

Chasing the black cloud of depression is, for many people, the hardest obstacle they might ever face in life. Up to now, Prozac was the leading drug of choice, but many serious side affects were reported, such as insomnia, weight loss and sexual dysfunction. Prozac also leaves the user with that “medicated feeling.” As a natural alternative, St. John’s Wort might take longer to kick in — sometimes up to six weeks, but it’s clean, and in highly concentrated extract form, this natural remedy proves effective test after test, customer after customer in fighting many kinds of depression. Various reports indicate close to 20 million depression sufferers in America alone.
Rob McCaleb of the Herb Research Foundation calls St. John’s Wort “the premier herb for treating moderate depression.” The Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology reported the yellow-flowered plant freed more than 80 percent of 3,250 patients from mild and moderate depression. In a number of placebo tests conducted by the British Medical Journal, Hypericum perforatum — the Latin name — worked three times better. The National Institutes of Health plan to conduct an extensive study, and most critics feel confident the results will be overwhelmingly positive. And through a grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department, South Carolina farmers are studying the herb as the state’s newest cash crop.
Other medicinal uses for St. John’s Wort include aromatic, astringent, resolvent, expectorant and nervine. It’s also used in treating various heart and bladder conditions, suppression of urine, dysentery, worms, diarrhea, hysteria and a number of other lesser-known diseases and health conditions. It’s been used in children for suppression of urine. Because it is a dietary supplement, manufacturers of the herb are prevented from advertising the health benefits on labels. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved St. John’s Wort or any other herb for medical purposes.
Myths surround ancient herbal remedies, and St. John’s Wort is no different. Researchers don’t know much about the herb’s active ingredients or how they work. Besides reducing or eliminating depression, stress and insomnia, many users claim the natural drug helps increase concentration and improves focus.
The worst side effect from St. John’s Wort was an increase in photosensitivity in animals, due to very high doses 50 times greater than the normal human dose. No photosensitive reactions were reported by humans, but doctors warn users to protect themselves from too much exposure to sunlight. In the study of more than 3,000 patients by the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology mentioned previously, only a few individuals reported mild allergic reactions, mild stomach irritation and restlessness.
In medieval times, it was believed putting the plant under one’s pillow at night would inspire dreams of St. John the Baptist, who would then bless the dreamer with a life of happiness. Myth or fact, St. John’s Wort is safe and worth the effort.