St. John’s Wort, also known as hypericum perforatum, is a flowering plant of the genus Hypericum. It’s been used as a medicinal herb for antidepressant and anti-inflammatory benefits for two millennia. Greek physicians first recognized St. John’s Wort uses for medicinal value. The ancients used it for treating nervous disorders, suspecting the plant had mystical and protective qualities.
St. John’s Wort is native to Europe, parts of Asia and Africa, and the Western United States. St. John’s Wort was given its name because it blooms around June 24, the birthday of John the Baptist, and the word “wort” is an old English word for plant.
St. John's Wort Uses and Health Benefits
St. John’s Wort is most commonly used as a natural remedy for depression, anxiety, tiredness, loss of appetite, and sleep difficulties. It’s also used to treat heart palpitations, moodiness, symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and symptoms of menopause. 4
St. John’s Wort can be used help manage these ailments:
- Depression - Depression is a common but serious mood disorder characterized by a series of symptoms - including persistent feelings of sadness or “emptiness”, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts - that interfere with day-to-day life. These symptoms must be present for at least two weeks to be diagnosed as depression. It’s different from “the blues” and is not something you can just “snap out of”, though medical treatments and anti-depression herbs like St. John’s Wort can help combat the symptoms.
- Bipolar Disorder - Bipolar Disorder is classified as a mental illness. It’s also known as manic depression and can be characterized by severe mood swings, cognitive problems, and a general feeling of unease. The keys to successfully managing bipolar disorder are early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. Treatment and management can be reached using St. John’s Wort for depression and manic episodes.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - OCD is a type of anxiety disorder. If you have OCD, you have frequent, upsetting thoughts called obsessions. To try and control the thoughts, you feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals or behaviors. These are called compulsions. Compulsions can be controlled using St. John’s Wort for anxiety and to help calm nerves.
- Schizophrenia - This is a serious brain illness. People who have it may hear voices that aren't there. They may think other people are trying to hurt them. Sometimes they don't make sense when they talk. The disorder makes it hard for them to keep a job or take care of themselves. St. John’s Wort may help to ease anxiety which is a characteristic of schizophrenia.
- Borderline Personality Disorder - BPD, also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder, impulsive or borderline type, or emotional intensity disorder, is a Cluster B personality disorder. The essential features include a pattern of impulsivity and instability of behaviors, interpersonal relationships, and self-image. Other symptoms usually include intense fears of abandonment, intense anger, and irritability, the reason for which others have difficulty understanding. St. John’s Wort for anxiety and depression can help those with BPD to remain calm and overcome impulse.
- Asperger’s Syndrome - This is a developmental disorder usually characterized by significant response delays. Basic skills that many people have such as social and interpersonal skills seem to be missing from someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Taking St. John’s wort can help stabilize mood and reduce certain common symptoms of Asperger’s.
St. John's Wort Side Effects and Precautions
Extensive research supports that St. John’s Wort is safe when taken orally for up to three months. Some evidence suggests it’s safe to use for over a year. St. John’s Wort side effects can be trouble sleeping, vivid dreams, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, stomach upset, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, skin rash, diarrhea, and tingling. When taken in large doses, St. John’s Wort may cause severe reactions to sun exposure. Sunblock is recommended, especially if you are light-skinned.
St. John’s Wort is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. It’s safe for children between the ages of 6 and 17, but not taken for more than eight weeks. 5