Reaching around 3ft tall in the wild, with star shaped yellow flowers and native to Europe and Asia, the St John’s wort has been used for quite some time for medicinal purposes.
It has been recorded as a regular use in itself, as well as being an ingredient to other medications since classical times in the 8th century.
St Johns wort is harvested in late June around St. Johns Day, which explains the name.
Ancient Greeks used the St. Johns wort on things like poisonous reptile bites, anxiety, contusions, healing wounds and warding off evil spirits.
Not only used but written about.
The Greek physician Hippocrates recommended it for “nervous sleep”.
In modern times, the plant, an invasive weed in some countries, eventually made it’s way to the Americas.
Which is interesting because in 1959 and 1971, extracted from the plant was an active antibacterial substance.
Now, the plant is known worldwide as a enhancer of mood, stress reliever, and known to improve sleep quality and is labeled as a dietary supplement.
There have been studies showing this plant to have almost the same effect as SSRIs for mild or moderate form of depression.
However, not much is known in long-term use nor the safety in discontinuing usage after a period of time.
Similar to anxiety which can actually be treated with depression medication, in stress, or anxiety, SJW has been shown to have the same effect as SSRIs.
And since it is not entirely known how SSRIs actually work, the same mysterious work seems to be happening with the SJW.
Be that as it may, there seems to always be theory to the unexplained, and the same applies here:
What is known for this plant in how it enables a better mood is in two chemicals found within:
Hypericin enhances neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine by inhibiting enzymes that are naturally involved in the breaking down of these neurotransmitters
(Making them more available which is important as they play major roles in mood.)
Hyperforin is similar in what it does, but more so in the uptake of these neurotransmitters. It acts as a reuptake inhibitor, slowing the body reabsorption of the neurotransmitters and allowing each to have a longer and better effect on the body.
This sounds like a miracle plant, but it is not perfect.
Just like with any remedy, it should be used with caution. As one Doctor wrote, “Natural, doesn’t mean it can’t cause harm.”
One big one is the fact this plant having a “enzyme flush” affect in the body which essentially makes certain medications impotent.
Comparable to grapefruit and some medications, which can be very serious for some folks, so a precaution when using with other medications should be a must.
Another is it’s potential heightening of blood pressure.
When combined with other SSRIs, during this rise of blood pressure, it it possible to induce what it known as “serotonin syndrome”, ushering in rapid heart rate, agitation, fever, diarrhea, and muscle spasms.
In addition to health concerns is the regulation of herbal products.
Because of this, the testing that typically happens for almost any medication approved by the FDA, does not happen here.
Nevertheless, it is fitting in perfectly fine as a tool, one tool, amongst many others, in alleviating or eliminating certain kinds of depression.
Worst case scenario, it does not help.
Although, with depression, I think anything claimed to help is worth trying.