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St. John's Wort

St. John’s Wort as Effective as Prozac, Study Says

October 10, 2008 02:20 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Scientists say they have confirmed that the herbal extract is a viable alternative to prescription drugs in treating depression. Others caution that it’s no wonder drug.

Herb Works Like a Drug

Researchers compared the effects of hypericum perforatum, the plant widely known as St. John’s Wort, with a variety of antidepressant medications.

St. John’s Wort is an herb that comes from the yellow-flowered hedgerow plant and blooms around June 24, which is St. John’s Day. It is already widely used as an herbal supplement, especially in Germany, where it is regularly prescribed to children and teenagers for depression.

“Overall, the St. John’s Wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebo, similarly effective as standard anti-depressants, and had fewer side effects than standard anti-depressants,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Klaus Linde of the Centre for Complementary Medicine in Munich, according to the Daily Mail.

The results indicated that the herb is as effective as Prozac in treating depression, and that it has fewer side effects than many drugs.

The study, which was published by the Cochrane Library, reviewed 29 studies from a variety of countries and tested several different kinds of extract. Its results could encourage more doctors to prescribe St. John’s Wort, reports the Daily Mail.

While it is not known exactly how the plant works to combat depression, researchers suspect that it may have an effect on the mood-altering brain chemical serotonin.

Linde cautions, however, that people should consult a doctor before taking the extract.

“Using a St. John’s Wort extract might be justified, but products on the market vary considerably, so these results only apply to the preparations tested,” Linde said.

Opinion & Analysis: How effective is St. John’s Wort?

While the recent study, and others in the past, have shown that the plant is effective against mild to moderate depression, a different study published by the American Medical Association found that it was not more effective than a placebo in treating severe clinical depression.

Pharmacist Helen Marshall also points out in The Guardian that it can “interfere with the effectiveness of drugs including cholesterol-lowering medications and the contraceptive pill, and increases the risk of stroke for anyone on blood-thinning drugs or anti-depressants.”

Blogger Furious Seasons comments that: “I know that the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort has long been controversial and that it’s generally been found to be somewhat useful for mild depression but it’s otherwise not a very robust treatment. That said, millions in Germany, where St. John’s Wort is especially popular, take the treatment and find it to be effective. Maybe they know something we don’t.”

Related Topics: Dietary supplements; anxiety and depression


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