Natural Health Products
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St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a plant with yellow flowers. Its medicinal uses were first recorded in ancient Greece. The name St. John’s wort apparently refers to John the Baptist, as the plant blooms around the time of the feast of St. John the Baptist in late June.
How is this product usually used?
The flowering tops of St. John’s wort are used to prepare teas, tablets, and capsules containing concentrated extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients. Liquid extracts and preparations for applying to the skin are also used.
What is this product used for?
St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain.
St. John’s wort has also been used as a sedativesedativean agent that induces sleep, relaxes, and reduces tension and a treatment for malaria, as well as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites.
Today, St. John’s wort is used by some for depression, anxiety, and/or sleep disorders.
Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.
What else should I be aware of?
Although some studies have reported benefits for more severe depression, others have not; for example, a large study sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that the herb was no more effective than an inert pill (placebo) in treating major depression of moderate severity. A study co-funded by NCCIH and the National Institute of Mental Health found that neither St. John’s wort nor a standard antidepressant medication relieved symptoms of minor depression better than a placebo.
St. John’s wort may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. Other side effects can include anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction.
Research shows that St. John’s wort interacts with many medications in ways that interfere with their intended effects. Examples of medications that can be affected include:
- birth control pills
- cyclosporine, which prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs
- digoxin, a heart medication
- indinavir and possibly other drugs used to control HIV infection
- irinotecan and possibly other drugs used to treat cancer
- seizure-control drugs, such as dilantin and phenobarbital
- warfarin and related anticoagulants
Taking St. John’s wort with certain antidepressants may lead to increased serotonin-related side effects, which may be potentially serious.
St. John’s wort is not a proven therapy for depression. If depression is not adequately treated, it can become severe. Anyone who may have depression should see a health care provider. There are effective proven therapies available.
Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Herbs at a Glance. St. John’s Wort. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/ataglance.htm Accessed June 3, 2016.
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