Traditional benefits of St Johns wort include depression, hysteria, ulcer and wound treatments.
Saint Johns wort which is scientifically known as hypericum perforatum is a yellow colored flower having five petals. The main use of St Johns wort has been as an antidepressant although it exhibits antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties as well.
The plant is found natively in Asia and Europe and has other names like goat weed and Klamath weed. This naturally occurring perennial plant fills the fields and is often disliked by the farmers who consider it harmful for their crop.
It has several naturally occurring chemicals in it which are believed to exert the beneficial effects observed in different conditions. The ingredients isolated from this natural resource are :
Of all the components found in St John wort, hypericin and hyperforin are believed to be the cause of the neuropsychiatric effects. Hyperforin is thought to be the predominant component in terms of exerting beneficial effects of st johns wort. It effects the levels of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine) and therefore exert the mood enhancing effects.
This herb has been used for centuries for the treatment of different ailments affecting human race. In ancient times, it was believed that this plant has some magical powers and was used to keep off evil spirits.
It has been used both in oral and topical forms and the traditional indications included:
12. Snake bite and
13. Rheumatism (Joint pains)
It was believed to have anti inflammatory, analgesic (pain killer), diuretic and wound healing properties.
With the advent of modern research, extracts have been prepared from this plant and they are being mainly used for the treatment of depression. The herb is famous in Europe and has received regulatory authority to be used as an antidepressant in Germany.
According to most studies st johns wort is better than placebo in the treatment of depression or even equivalent to the antidepressants. The studies used the standard depression rating score like the Hamilton’s Depression Rating score and improvement in the symptoms of the disease was observed. However there are some other studies that did not prove the benefits of st johns wort to be better than a placebo.
Moreover the benefits of st johns wort in patients of severe depression has not been established. But still St Johns wort is being widely used across Europe and USA for the treatment of depression and its use is rising. If you plan to use the herb you MUST be aware of the appropriate dose and the potential drug interactions it can cause.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of major depression in which the symptoms appear in autumn and winters and they subside in the spring and summers. Efficacy of st johns wort in patients of SAD was tested in a study and significant reduction in the symptoms was observed. The results obtained were comparable to that of fluoxetine (an antidepressant) in SAD.
St johns wort has shown antiviral activity in vitro (outside the body) against a number of viruses including parainfluenza 3 virus, vesicular stomatitis virus, Sindbis virus, murine cytomegalovirus and equine infectious anmia virus.
In vitro studies have shown that Herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 and retroviruses are inhibited by the hypericin and pseudohypericin components of the extract. Moreover hypericin is found to be effective against the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) outside the body. Hypericin needs exposure to the visible light to exert its antiviral effects, which cannot be achieved to that extent inside the body.