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How useful is St John's Wort (hypericum) as an antidepressant?


In May 2000, the popular herbal remedy St. John's Wort was evaluated as an antidepressant. The evaluation was based on fourteen trials involving over 1400 adults. In eight trials subjects were given St. John's Wort or a placebo, while in the other trials St. John's Wort and a tricyclic antidepressant. The doses of St. John's Wort ranged from 300-1800mg/day.

Responders were defined as those whose condition had improved by 50 percent or more. The aggregated studies indicated that 38 percent of those receiving a placebo were responders, compared to 62 percent of those receiving St. John's Wort and 61 percent receiving the tricyclic antidepressant. Such data would seem to indicate that St. John's Wort is an effective antidepressant and of comparable effectiveness to the tricyclic antidepressants. However, as trial were generally undertaken on those with mild depression, St. John's Wort is likely to be of possible assistance only to a percentage of people experiencing no-melancholic depression.

As yet, no formal trial has compared St. John's Wort to a SSRI, but such data are expected to emerge in the next year. While the status of St. John's Wort as an antidepressant remains to be clarified, its effectiveness is likely to be limited to non-melancholic depressive disorders.

Side Effects of St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort can have side-effects, however, and there are now several reports suggesting that it may have some toxic effects on reproductive functioning. As with any drug, care should be taken to consider its side-effects profile.

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