Posted By Clod on May 23, 2012
St. John’s wort is one of the most popular herbal remedies on the market, with reported sales of approximately $200 million in 1997, the year it first received widespread coverage in the U.S. media.
Since that time, much of the news about this alternative therapy for depression has been promising. A mounting body of data, along with legions of patients who swear by the herb’s antidepressant properties, point to the potential of St. John’s wort as an inexpensive, safe and effective depression treatment.
One of these loyal patients is 29-year-old Kelly of Calgary, Alberta, who has “suffered from moderate depression for many years.” He first sought treatment for his condition in 1996 and began taking the prescription medication Paxil under doctor’s orders.
“I guess Paxil was OK at first,” he said, “but it didn’t take long for side effects to kick in, and for me they were worse than the original problems that I faced. To keep it short, it created some strange sexual dysfunctions…and I was completely unable to sleep. I stopped taking Paxil after about seven weeks out of frustration, and went without anything. All of a sudden, my life was turning upside down and things were worse than ever before.”
In the course of researching alternative therapies for depression, Kelly discovered St. John’s wort and began taking it in the hope that it could lift his mood without the nasty side effects. “I noticed it starting to take effect within the first week, though it took a couple of weeks to fully take effect,” he said. “And now here I am, three years later and I’m still doing outrageously well.”
Think St. John’s Wort Is Right For You?
An Introduction to St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort for Depression
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With patients leading the way, physicians increasingly look to herbal medicine. Donald Counts, M.D., a family practitioner in Austin, Texas, is one doctor who integrates “alternative” therapies into treatment plans when appropriate for certain patients. In his practice, Counts has found
St. John’s wort effective for some of his patients, but stressed, “It only works for mild depression. I would not try it with moderately or severely depressed patients.” He emphasizes that seriously depressed patients may require a psychiatrist’s care and should not attempt to medicate themselves with St. John’s wort or anything else.
In keeping with the experiences of this patient and doctor, much of the evidence on this “herb of light” is encouraging. St. John’s wort is one of the most thoroughly researched herbal medicines on the U.S. market. It has been prescribed as a drug in Germany since 1984 when that country’s Commission E, a regulatory agency for the review of herbal medications, approved the use of St.
In dozens of clinical trials performed over the past 20 years, involving thousands of patients, St. John’s wort has consistently performed well in relieving mild to moderate depression. For example, in a 1996 review of 23 studies published in the British Medical Journal, 55 percent of patients responded to St. John’s wort while only 22 percent responded to a placebo — a success rate comparable to that of conventional prescription antidepressants.