St. John’s Wart

– 2/4/2001

Latin name: Hypericum perforatum Other names: Amber, Goatweed, Hardhay, Klamath Weed, Tipton Weed

The rising popularity of St. John’s Wort in America is due to its long history of beneficial use in Europe;long recognized as a natural and effective herb that promotes an uplifting sense of well-being.Today many people find it helps them to naturally cope with the emotional stress of modern life. The main mechanism of St. John’s Wort lies in its key compound, Hypericin, thought to play an important role in neurotransmitter metabolism.*

Remedy For:
Depression and anxiety
Skin inflammation
Wounds and burns

Although its effectiveness for other ailments has not been proven, St. John’s Wort has also been used to treat sleep disturbances, gallbladder disorders, gastritis, bronchitis, asthma, diarrhea, bed-wetting, rheumatism, muscle pain, hemorrhoids, and gout.

What It Is, Why It Works
St. John’s Wort is believed to combat depression by boosting the levels of certain chemical messengers in the brain. It works on two fronts. Like the prescription antidepressant Prozac, it seems to increase the amount of serotonin available to the nervous system. And like the “monoamine oxidase inhibitor” Nardil, it is thought to promote higher levels of dopamine and certain other chemical messengers. St. John’s Wort is a golden yellow perennial flower that secretes a red liquid when pinched. Cut at the start of the flowering season and processed in bunches, it must be dried quickly to preserve its oil and secretions. This plant has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years. Ancient Greeks believed that its odor repelled evil spirits. Early Christians named the plant in honor of St. John the Baptist because they believed it released its blood-red oil on the 29th of August, the day the saint was beheaded.

Avoid If…
There are no known reasons to avoid St. John’s Wort at recommended dosage levels.

Special Cautions
With heavy use, St. John’s Wort increases sensitivity to sunlight. To avoid a sunburn, minimize your exposure to the sun while using this medication. This herb can also cause bloating and constipation.

Possible Drug Interactions
Do not use St. John’s Wort while taking a prescription MAO inhibitor such as Nardil or Parnate. At least in theory, a dangerous interaction is possible. If you are taking medications for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, it’s best to avoid St. John’s Wort. The herb is known to interfere with at least one HIV drug–Crixivan–and may reduce the effect of others, including Agenerase, Fortovase, Invirase, Norvir, and Viracept. St. John’s Wort should also be avoided by people taking Neoral, a drug used to keep transplant patients from rejecting their new organs. It can inhibit the drug’s life-saving effect.

Special Information If You Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding No harmful effects are known.

How to Prepare
A tea can be made from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant using 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of the herb steeped in 5 ounces of boiling water for 10 minutes. A medicinal oil can be prepared by soaking the crushed flowers in olive oil for several weeks in the sun. Once the oil acquires a reddish color, it can be taken internally or applied directly to the skin to relieve inflammation and promote healing.

Typical Dosage
St. John’s Wort can be taken orally or applied to the skin. The usual daily dosage for internal use is: 2 to 4 grams (approximately one-half to 1 teaspoonful) of dried herb One 5 ounce cup of tea For depression, take St. John’s Wort for 4 to 6 weeks. If needed, repeat for another 4- to 6-week period. If you feel no improvement, check with your doctor. You may need a different therapy. St. John’s Wort is available in powder, liquid, and solid preparations for internal use; liquid and semi-solid preparations for external use; and preparations made with fatty oils for external and internal use. Common brands are made by Celestial Seasonings, Centrum Herbals, Nature’s Way, and Schiff. Strengths for commercial preparations may vary. Follow the manufacturer’s labeling whenever available.

Always consult your physician before taking any medication.

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