Monday, March 12, 2007

St. John's Wort -An Herb For Depression And Insomnia - By Ian Finlayson

St. John's wort has been traditionally used to treat mental disorders as well as nerve pain for centuries. It is also currently acknowledged by herbalists as a sedative and an effective treatment for malaria as well as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites.

St. John's wort is currently used to treat mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. It has been shown to be more effective than antidepressants generally prescribed for mild to moderate depression.

In some enlightened countries like Germany, the sale of St John's Wort has outstripped many of the major prescription anti-depressants

There have been several dozen studies looking at the effectiveness of St. John's Wort. The British Medical Journal recently conducted a study of 23 randomized trials involving over 1,700 patients. The patients had mild to moderate depression. St. John's wort was just as effective as standard antidepressants. However, none of the studies exceeded 12 weeks in duration making them less than ideal. Fifty percent of patients taking St. John's wort improved with respect to their depression as opposed to only 23 percent of patients that were taking placebo.

More recently, there have been a number of clinical studies that have demonstrated that standardized extracts of Hypericum are more effective than a placebo in the treatment of depression. Active ingredients include glycosides, flavonoids, volatile oils, tannins and resins. The active ingredients in Hypericum are thought to boost serotonin levels, which are usually lacking in depressed people. In several studies, St. John's wort was more effective than standard antidepressants for mild to moderate depression.

St. John's Wort has been known to interfere with certain medications. If you are taking any medications or under doctors care consult your physician before taking.

For example tricyclic antidepressants may interact with St. John's wort.

St. John's wort can also increase the effects of prescription drugs used to treat depression. It can also interfere with drugs used to treat HIV infection, to treat cancer, for birth control, or to prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs.

Pregnant or nursing woman or children under 12 should not take supplements containing St John's Wort Also, persons taking medications such as cyclosporin which are usually prescribed in serious auto-immune problems, organ transplantation to stop rejection or cancer therapy should also avoid St. John's Wort.

Ian Finlayson is chief writer and Webmaster of The Herb Spiral a website dealing with medicinal and culinary herbs. His articles aim to provide a balanced insight into the known and traditional therapeutic properties of commonly used medicinal herbs.

The Herb Spiral also provides current news comment and a variety of articles on each herb discussed. More information on St John's Wort can be found here

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