St. John's Wort: An alternative to Prozac?
St. John's Wort

St. John's wort is a beautiful herb that grows easily in the wild. It has uplifting yellow flowers from June through August that are highly sought after by sufferers of depression as well as the pharmaceutical industry that is extracting its active constituents for use in medicines to relieve a wide range of psychological complaints from anxiety to seasonal affective disorder and depression to sleep disorders.

St. John's Wort got its common name from the fact that the perennial flowers on or around St. John's day, June 24th -- and its botanical name, Hypericum perforatum, from Greek meaning "over an apparition," based on the ancient belief that the herb was offensive to evil spirits . . . who fled its odor. The yellow buds exude a burgundy-colored oil when soaked in alcohol, hence the legend that the first plant emerged from the blood that spilled when John the Baptist was beheaded at the behest of Salome.

Clinically, St. John's wort is prized as a nervine and antidepressant, so much so that in Germany, where St. John's wort is approved for treatment of depression and anxiety, it is prescribed 20 times more often than Prozac. Unlike many herbs, St. John's wort has been extensively tested in clinical trials. One trial in England involved 1757 patients with mild to moderately severe depression. Dosages varied from 0.4 to 2.7 milligrams per day. Most herbalists suggest that the herb be taken at least twice a day.

Historically, St. John's wort was used for a wide variety of conditions: any and all injuries to the nervous system, especially nerve endings; dysentery, worms, and diarrhea; jaundice and hemorrhages; incontinence and pulmonary complaints involving congestion of the lungs. Externally, it has been used as a fomentation for hard breast tumors and other conditions involving caking of the breasts. Research indicates that hyperforin has beneficial effects in treating depression, especially where the patient is anxious, and hypericin is a superb antiviral agent, offering a major hope to persons with enveloped viruses such as herpes and HIV as well as hepatitis B & C. Most American producers of standardized potencies are referring to hypericin whereas clinical research in Austria and Germany strongly suggests that hyperforin may actually be the more important "active ingredient" where anxiety and depression are concerned.

Those familiar with my work know I prefer using herbs and foods in their whole state. Nature loves balance, and there is often a synergy between the different constituents of an herb, one that may, for instance, relieve depression and another that perhaps protects the body from injury due to excessive use of an herb. Herbalists generally go one step further by complementing the main herb with other herbs that work in harmony with the one believed to be addressing the primary issue most directly.


Warning: Do not use this herbal product in conjunction with conventional antidepressive drugs. Some fair-skinned people experience increased photosensitivity while taking St. John's wort. Avoidance of ultraviolet light is recommended if such persons wish to continue the use of this herb.

For information on the side effects of Prozac



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