St. John's wort is also called "mood enhancer" or "captured power of the sun" and is considered the most popular and important medicinal plant for depression and low moods. But what makes St. John's wort so special?
What is St. John's wort used for?
St. John's wort is one of the best-studied medicinal plants in Europe. It is the only native plant whose mood-lifting effect has been proven in many studies. St. John's wort preparations are used for inner restlessness, depressive moods, hormonal or seasonal mood lows.
Scientific studies have shown that the effect is related to the activity of neurotransmitters. These are messenger substances that ensure the flow of information between the nerve cells. The neurotransmitter serotonin in particular is positively influenced by the ingredients of St. John's wort, at least in the short term. Serotonin is also called the "happiness hormone", so depression is usually associated with a serotonin deficiency. Accordingly, both herbal and chemical antidepressants have an effect on the serotonin balance.
How does St. John's wort work?
The whole herb is used as a remedy, i.e. all parts of the plant except the root. Among other things, it contains red pigments - the naphthodianthrones - which include the substances hypericin and pseudohypericin. In addition, so-called phloroglucin derivatives are found in the plant, especially hyperforin, as well as flavonoids. Scientists consider the two active substances hypericin and hyperforin to be particularly important. The red hypericin is also known as St. John's blood. It has an antidepressant effect on the central nervous system, but can also cause hypersensitivity to sunlight. Therefore, one should not expose oneself to direct sunlight after using the red oil.
What is the dosage of St. John's wort?
St. John's wort is available as tablets, capsules, tea and tincture. It does not have an immediate effect on the psyche after the first dose. To achieve a mood-lifting effect, at least 300 mg of this dry extract should be taken per day. It should be taken continuously over a longer period of time. Studies on the effect of St. John's wort worked with a dose of 500 mg to 1200 mg per day. This has been shown to relieve the symptoms of people with mild to moderate depression more than a placebo.
However, the disease depression is to be taken very seriously and its treatment should definitely be in the hands of a doctor. Typical signs of the disease are a deep depression combined with a general lack of interest and drive. People with depression usually sleep badly, feel exhausted and overwhelmed by everyday life. St. John's wort products can only help you with mild depressive episodes. For severe depression, you should always consult a doctor.
What are the side effects of St. John's wort?
St. John's wort products have fewer side effects than some other antidepressants. However, they may interact with other medicines. One problem with high-dose St. John's wort extract can be that certain enzymes in the liver are stimulated in their activity. The activation can cause medicines to be broken down more quickly than usual. This could impair their effect. For this reason, simultaneous use with important medicines is not recommended, the best-known example being hormonal contraceptives such as the pill. St. John's wort must not be combined with other antidepressants.
Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid taking St. John's wort, as should children and adolescents.
If you have any further questions about St. John's wort, its effect, dosage or application on the skin, our pharmacists at Saint Charles Pharmacy Vienna or Berlin will be happy to help you. If you want to learn more about antidepressant herbs, we recommend the article on natural antidepressants or Griffonia.