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St. John's Wort

Hypericum Perforatum

St. John's Wort has been used throughout Europe for a number of symptoms of nervous tension: insomnia, cramps (e.g. menstrual), intestinal colic, irritable bowel, bed wetting and anxiety. St. John's Wort extracts have shown a wide variety of effects in experimental and clinical studies. Some of the activities demonstrated include psychotropic, antidepressant, antiviral, and antibiotic effects as well as increased healing of wounds and burns.


Up to 300mg (standardised to 0.3% hypericin) three times daily have been used in depression studies. No restriction on duration of use although at least 4 weeks of treatment is required to assess the anti-depressant effect. Organic Tincture - 15-30 drops 2-3 times daily.

Potential applications

Mild to moderate depression. Viral conditions such as herpes virus 1 and 2. Menopausal conditions and other states involving tension / anxiety e.g. SAD and chronic fatigue syndrome. Injuries and trauma. Nicotine and alcohol withdrawal. Hypericin has produced potent anti-tumour activity in-vitro against several tumour cells, although no toxic effects were noted on normal cells. St. Johns Wort has been shown to increase nocturnal melatonin secretion after using 500mg / day for 3 weeks. Topical application - St. John's Wort has long been used as a wound healing substance. Preparations have been used in burns, as a sunscreen, and in the treatment of muscular pain. The topical application of hypericum has shown significant inhibition of Staphylococcus aureus in cases of Atopic Dermatitis (an eczema like condition) over 4 weeks of application. In Greece the herb is used externally for the treatment of shingles.

Known contraindications

St. John's Wort should not be used during pregnancy or lactation without seeking physician guidance. People with a history of manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder) or a less severe condition known as hypomania, should avoid use of St. John's Wort as it may trigger a manic episode. Hypericum is not advisable in cases of known photosensitivity. Patients should reduce artificial UVA irradiation while taking hypericum, but normal doses of hypericum should represent no concern with regard to photosensitivity.


Caution should always be exercised in patients receiving orthodox medication. Patients should be monitored for any symptoms suggestive of serotonin syndrome (such as confusion, fever, shivering, sweating, diarrhoea and muscle spasms. This effect has been shown by the use of both SSRI and MAO inhibitors in combination. Hypericum has been shown to increase activity of the P450 enzymes in the liver and so increase drug clearance. Many drugs and also several common foods and drinks can influence this enzyme system. Those on medication, including the contraceptive pill, should consult their physician for advice.

Use in conjunction with

  • Depression - Flax seed oil, 'High six' B complex, multi-phytonutrient complex, rhodiola rosea / schisandra
  • Diet and lifestyle - regular aerobic exercise, stress management, adequate sleep, antioxidant rich diet, low saturated / hydrogenated fats, high protein (fish/vegetarian), regular meals, keep hydrated (1.5 litres water). Thyroid check. Therapeutic fast may be advisable (seek guidance).


Paracelsus named St. John's Wort "arnica of the nerves" because of its empirical use in nervous diseases.


© Cheryl Thallon at Viridian

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