Casually called SJW or St. John's, it is an herbal antidepressant. It works similar to Prozac by blocking the absorption of seratonin, though is cheaper, more accessible (as it doesn't need a prescription), and doesn't have any side effects (other than actually being happy for once). I like to ingest about 300mg daily for a few days, then not take any for a couple days so I remember how much nicer anxiety is than self-loathing.

A report was released recently saying that St. John's Wort increases the liver's speed at removing things from the body. Things such as birth control pills. Normal use of St. John's Wort can lower the effectiveness of the pill by almost 50% (from 99%). So don't take St. John's Wort if you are using the pill and don't want a child!

In today's fast-paced and hectic society, it's good to know that there is something as powerful as St. John's Wort to help one get through one's day. Its uses are innumerable, but here are a few...

  • Buy a bunch of bottles (300mg variety), open them all and leave them laying around in your car for air freshener
  • Pour out all the capsules, cut a slice in the lid and use the bottle as a piggy bank
  • Use the capsules in place of those little styrofoam pellets if you're making a bean-bag
  • Pour half of the capsules out and use the bottle as a maracas
  • Use the capsules as a weapon if someone's chasing you. Just turn around and toss them all out on the floor and watch as your enemy goes head over heels
  • Open a capsule and sprinkle some of the extract on your pet's food for a little extra flavoring
  • Dissolve a bottle's worth of extract in some water, add flour and cook for a short time. Voila! Brownish-green paint!
  • Get a straw and use the capsules in place of paper wads in a spit-ball fight
  • Open all the capsules and flush the extract down the toilet. Now put something really useful in the empty capsules, like Prozac
  • As someone who ingests both St John's wort and alcohol every day in substantial quantities for the purpose of feeling better, I can assure you alcohol does not cancel out its effect. Alcohol is indeed a depressant, and I'm sure it reduces the effectivity of the St John's wort somewhat, but the drug has utterly transformed my life and made me much happier, because I'm free of permanent depression, and I don't particularly need to feel the effect of it on an alcohol-free lifestyle. I'm plenty liberated as it is.

    St John's wort also adversely interacts with warfarin for heart disease. It is unfortunate that some people can't have the advantage of it because of other drugs they're taking -- the Pill is a real bummer --; and like most such drugs it doesn't work for all people: works for something like 80% of people, which is similar to the figure for Prozac.

    It is the drug of first choice for the condition known as mild to moderate depression, unless you are medically unable to take it. It is not so suitable for the condition known as major depression (clinical depression), though I doubt there's any harm trying. There have been no reports of people turning into suicidal axe murderers after a few.

    My experience of photosensitivity (I'm the sort who can take a tan) is an unpleasant, disturbing tingling of my scalp when under bright lights (such as in a pub where there are lights everywhere). This went away after a few weeks or I got used to it. And even if I hadn't: I can have my scalp tingle or I can cry at night because I'm depressed... let me see now... how to choose, how to choose...

    What it appears to do is block negative emotional memories from the amygdala, which otherwise would circulate in the cortex and become obsessive worries and fears. My experience has been that it almost entirely blocks imaginary anxieties. So it also happens to makes me more socially confident (I have social phobia).

    It does not in any way stop real (i.e. well-founded) anxieties. If I have good cause to worry at a particular time about someone's health, or my love life, I do so just as strongly, and get quite as depressed as ever. That's not nice but it's there for a reason and I'm happy to have it.

    For the record: I am an arch-rationalist, virulently opposed to alternative medicine rubbish, which I condemn as tap water, fraud, and gullibility. But St John's wort works. The effect is huge, far far stronger than can be put down to the placebo effect.

    A further note. I recently read that, as with anything like Prozac, it takes two or three weeks before it has any effect. Does it. The first pill I ever had in my life produced a powerful effect in two and a half hours. Your milage may vary, but I find this timing consistently exact. If I haven't had one for more than half a day and I start slipping into mild depression, then after two hours and thirty minutes, plus or minus five minutes (truly: I've timed it on numerous occasions) it hits as a sudden slight warming, relaxing, a load off my mind, a very slight euphoria.

    It's not a pep pill, it's not a stimulant, and it doesn't even make you happy as such, except in this sense: if you'd been a martyr to tinnitus or backache all your adult life, and you took a pill that made the tinnitus or backache go away, you'd be happy because it was gone. Depression isn't unhappiness, but it stops you being happy.

    And I used to be afraid to be happy. An overabundance of positive neurotransmitters would subside and lead to a more pronounced unhappiness. This no longer happens.

    Compulsory final warning, this is my personal experience, it might not be right for you.

    After three years. You can get used to it, unfortunately. For the last six months or so I've felt I've not been getting any such effect from it as I used to: no warmth, no loss of worry. So I finally stopped taking it to try, and lack of it makes me more "nervous", but not more depressed. And taking a pill after abstinence no longer gives me the old effect back. *sigh*

    But perhaps I'm being too hasty. I was expecting a sudden drop, and a single pill making a sudden change. After several weeks of not regularly using it, I've gone back to my three a day, and yes it is calming me, making me not worry much, and giving a general "Oh, blow it" attitude to things that had been more upsetting over the past couple of works. So I think I'll stay with it.

    St. John's Wort is in the news again.

    If you're depressed, don't take it!!

    A new study Sponsored by the National Institute of Health and directed by Dr. Richard C. Shelton, concludes that St. John's Wort has proved useless in treating depression. His study was conducted at 11 teaching hospitals in the U.S. and included 200 patients and lasted eight weeks. The participants were described as suffering from major depression; people with severe depression were not studied.

    The patients received either an extract of St. John's Wort or a placebo, with neither patients nor doctors knowing which had been taken. After eight weeks, there was no difference between those who took the herb and those in the placebo group. About 27% who took St. John's Wort showed some improvement, while 19% in the placebo group showed improvement, however the difference was not statistically significant.

    Depression is defined as a sad or depressed mood that lasts two weeks or more, along with at least four other symptoms like feelings of guilt or worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, decreased energy and changes in appetite and sleep. The symptons can range from mild to severe and are thought to affect 1 in 5 Americans.

    Still, some advocates of St. John's Wort assert that it works for minor depression and that more research needs to be done. The American Botanical Council questioned the study, in particular its failure to include a comparison group taking antidepressants. Such a study is under way.

    Source: New York Times

    Hypericum perforatum

    A long living, perennial plant which grows freely in the wild to a height of 3 feet. Known commonly as hypericum, this herb is found natively in Britain, and throughout Europe and Asia. It's flowers are a bright and cheery yellow, which stand out clearly from its pale green foliage.

    Hypericum has many medicinal qualities apart from its well known properties as a natural low to medium level anti-depressant. It has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders as well as nerve pain. In ancient times, doctors and herbalists wrote about its use as a sedative, as well as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites. It is used to treat anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, hormonal imbalance, and sleep disorders. It has been known to make the changes caused by menopause a lot easier to live with. And can also be used in pulmonary complaints, bladder troubles, cramps, dysentery, worms, diarrhoea, and hemorrhages. Hypericum can give relief to the measles, chicken pox, shingles and the common flu. And is known to relieve spinal paralysis in dogs and cats after a tick bite.
    For children finding it difficult to overcome bed-wetting, an infusion or tea of Hypericum given before bed time has proven very effective. St. John's wort should not be used by women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding.

    One of the properties of hypericum previously mentioned is its ability to work as an anti-depressant. The components of the herb which cause this effect are hypericin, psudohypericin, and xanthones. These work to inhibit the chemical monoamineoxidase, and inhibit the reduction of the chemical serotonin. Depression occurs when these chemicals are not in a particular balance within the brain. Hypericum can be used in many cases as a natural alternative to anti-depressants such as Prozac and Zoloft. It does not have as many side effects as most anti-depressants, however the effects tend to differ from person to person. It should never be used together with standard anti-depressants, unless your doctor has said there is no risk.

    Hypericum oil can be made from the flowers infused in olive oil, and is also extracted from the many oil glands in the leaves of the plant. The essential oil can be used to massage people with spinal problems. The penetrating power of this oil is very high, although it is not aromatic. When used as a soothing dressing, the oil is also helpful to ease rashes or skin irritations which occur as a result of stress or nervous tension.

    Although not commonly used in cooking, St. John's wort has in recent times been added to many herbal tea infusions, and relaxing drinks which are sold over the counter at up-market delicatessen’s.

    This herb has many religious qualities, and ancient superstitions. Its name Hypericum is derived from the Greek language. It means 'over an apparition', which is a reference to the belief that the herb was so obnoxious to evil spirits that the slightest smell of it would cause them to fly. In pre-Christian religious practices, it was used as protection from apparitions.
    St Johns wort* was named after St. John the Baptist. The red oil glands that mark the herb's leaves were once believed to be drops of blood, a reminder of the day the saint was beheaded. Some traditionalists believe that the best day to harvest St. John's herb is on June 24, the Feast of St. John. Interestingly, that harvest date often does yield optimal potency in the herb. It was used in many of the ceremonies and rituals. Bringing the flowers into the house on mid-summers eve would protect against the evil eye; and sleeping with a sprig of the plant under one's pillow on St. John's Eve would ensure a vision of the saint and his blessing.

    Hypericum ointment is sold at heath food stores, as are other hypericum products such as tablets, herbal teas, dried flowers, and of course essential oil. You could possibly find some of these items at larger grocery stores too.

    Warning: As with many substances, overuse can prove dangerous to some individuals. Only use the recommended daily dosage, and consult your herbalist or doctor if you have any concerns.

    *"Wort" is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning herb.

    The seedpods of hypericum are appearing with increasing frequency in Martha Stewart like magazine layouts. They are red/orange, somewhat shaped like an egg with a sharper taper at one end and downward deflecting old petals.

    I just saw a cute picture in a magazine of a string of seeds draped around the top of a vase. I've seen pictures of them in flower arrangements and just today I saw a bunch for sale in the Giant for $3.50. They must be moving from "chic" to "common"

    The plant is also a lovely bushy thing; it is more like a woody shrub than a soft-stemmed perennial. The flowers are beautiful and the bloom time is long. It flowers on old wood so cutting long stems to obtain the seedpods would prevent flowering the following year but doesn't kill the plant.

    St. John's Wort is also beginning to appear in so many products that it might lead to accidental overdosing. At least 2 Celestial Seasonings teas now have it in them, as do some "health food" store nutritional bars. This seems to me to be a BAD IDEA. Medication should be taken only knowingly and intentionally. I worry that everyone using these teas or nutritional bars may not be aware there is medication in them. Herbs are medications.

    Cautions about using it while breastfeeding are true. Zoloft is the SSRI antidepressant of choice while breastfeeding, as it is not secreted in the milk in any significant quantity. St. John's Wort is.

    Also, cautions about using it in combination with SSRIs are true. Seratonin Syndrome can result from overuse of two or more similar products.

    so many people claim st. john's wort as a miracle drug and sing it's praises and seem to take great pleasure in the fact that it is natural. firstly, let's not forget that in pill form it is still manufactured, and secondly, natural does not equal harmless. it is just as important to discuss taking st. john's wort with a doctor as it is to discuss taking prozac or paxil.

    last year the british medical journal recommended it as first choice of treatment for mild to moderate depression and have more than thirty trials documented which confirm its efficacy.

    but as with all drugs it has its downsides and its risks. one doctor from monash university says, "anything that has the ability to change your physiology enough to improve your health also has the potential to harm". i do worry about the dangers of this because st. john's wort sits innocently on the shelves in supermarkets these days and unfortunately the average person thinks that if something doesn't need a prescription, it's safe.

    one must also always be very aware of the implications of cross reactions. never take st john's wort in conjunction with any other medication. always speak to your doctor first. st john's wort can react dangerously with drugs such as warfarin or digoxin, which are prescribed for heart conditions. it can also react dangerously with theophylline for asthma and anticonvulsant drugs for epilepsy. it activates enzymes in the liver which causes them to metabolise the medicines at a faster rate, making them less effective.

    it also interacts with triptans for migraine, overloading the brain with serotonin. this can lead to nausea, coma and even renal failure.

    the therapeutic drugs administration now warns australians not to self-medicate with st. john's wort if they are already on prescription medication although i do wish they would print warnings on the label.

    the other problem is that depression is a potentially life-threatening affliction and needs to be assessed first to eliminate any organic causes. what you may think is depression may be just a resultant affliction from something such as chronic fatigue syndrome, or thyroid imbalance. in this way, depression is not something you can self-assess.

    information from the reader's digest, and my own brain.

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