(Provided by LifeScript)
What Is St. John’s Wort?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given year, around 9.5 percent, or 18.8 million Americans, suffer from a depressive illness. Numerous prescriptions are filled each year for antidepressant medications, each having its own plethora of undesirable side effects. St. John’s Wort has been researched for more than 100 years for its potential in treating mild to moderate depression. An interesting fact about the name of this herb that might have puzzled you before is that “Wort” is actually just an old English word for “plant.”
How Does St. John’s Wort Work?
Symptoms of depression include: anxiety, irritability, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, appetite disorders, depressed mood and poor tolerance to stress. These symptoms can interrupt your ability to function normally, making everyday tasks difficult. Conventional antidepressant medications have many undesirable side effects, one of which is lowered sexual function. St. John’s Wort is a natural alternative to conventional antidepressant medications, with few to no side effects. In fact, in Germany, natural treatments are preferred over most prescription medications, and St. John’s Wort is prescribed more often than Prozac or Zoloft.
Scientists believe that St. John’s Wort works by elevating levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain, helping to boost mood and balance emotions. St. John’s Wort promotes a good night’s sleep, helping to reverse the fatigue and low energy levels that plague those suffering from depression. It has also been found to help with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
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However, it is important to note that most studies have only researched the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort on only mild to moderate cases of depression. A physician should monitor depression, and you may find it helpful to speak with your physician about the use of St. John’s Wort.
Some studies have measured the effect of St. John’s Wort in combating bacterial infections as well as viruses. However, supporting evidence is too preliminary to determine if St. John’s Wort can be used as an effective treatment.
What are the Safety Issues Surrounding St. John’s Wort Use?
Prescription antidepressant medications and St. John’s Wort should not be mixed, as they may interact badly with each other. In fact, if you’re taking any prescription medications, you should consult with your physician before taking St. John’s Wort or any other supplement. Many systemic diseases, such as hypothyroidism or anemia, can be masked by depression. Your physician can determine whether you have a mild to moderate case of depression or if you’re suffering from entirely different medical issue.
St. John’s Wort can render prescription birth control medications ineffective. If you are taking prescription birth control medications, do not take St. John’s Wort unless your physician otherwise instructs you. Use of St. John’s Wort can also increase sensitivity to the sun, but this side effect is not usually a problem at recommended dosages. Fair-skinned people should avoid prolonged sun exposure until they are sure they do not have an increased sensitivity.
How Can I Make The Most Out Of St. John’s Wort?
The recommended dosage of St. John’s Wort is 300 mg three times per day, containing 0.3% hypericin, which is one of the main active components of St. John’s Wort. A 450-mg dose taken twice every day has also been found to be just as effective. Many supplements can cause stomach irritation, including St. John’s Wort, so make sure to take it at mealtime with plenty of food and water. St. John’s Wort can take four to six weeks to be effective, just as with prescription antidepressants. The herb must build up in your body before you can notice any improvements. As with any supplement, if you are pregnant, lactating or have a pre-existing medical condition or take prescription medications, please consult with your physician before starting this or any supplement program.
Source: eDiets.com, provided by LifeScript.