(Natural News) You might have heard that St. John’s wort is a great natural remedy for depression. You can get this herbal supplement without ever visiting a doctor, and many people report noticeable improvements after taking it. However, it’s not a good treatment for everyone. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the herb to help you decide if it’s right for you.
The herb, which is characterized by bright yellow flowers that leave a red stain when crushed, has been used as a natural treatment for thousands of years in places like Europe. It is used to treat issues like depression, anxiety, mood swings, and addiction. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The pros of St. John’s wort
The biggest positive of taking St. John’s wort is that it works. A Cochrane review showed that it’s effective at treating major depression, while a 2016 review showed it worked better than a placebo and just as well as prescription antidepressants in reducing the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Another analysis, this one from 2017, also showed it worked as well as antidepressants and, perhaps more importantly, was easier to stick with; fewer people stopped taking it than antidepressants in the study.
This is a big factor for people with depression who wish to avoid taking antidepressants on account of the many serious side effects they cause, which can include nausea, weight gain, a loss of sexual desire, constipation, and even a higher risk of suicide.
St. John’s wort can also be useful to women who are going through menopause as it can ease many of the associated symptoms, such as anxiety and mood swings. Studies show it works even better at addressing menopausal symptoms when combined with black cohosh. It can also alleviate the cramping, depression and irritability of premenstrual syndrome.
It has also been shown in studies to effectively treat wounds, burns, sores and bruises thanks to its antiviral qualities.
The cons of St. John’s wort
One of the biggest reasons some people opt not to take St. John’s wort is its effect on the metabolic pathway that your body uses to clear drugs and other chemicals you’ve ingested from your bloodstream. Much like grapefruit juice, it can interfere with other medications and render them ineffective.
It can also interact with a slew of common pharmaceutical drugs. When it’s combined with MAOs or SSRIs, it could cause high blood pressure, agitation, muscle spasms, and rapid heart rate. It can also interfere with heart medication, oral contraceptives, anticoagulants, and anti-seizure meds. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid the herb, as should those taking birth control pills.
It’s also worth noting that it may take some time to see results when taking the herb for problems like depression. Effects might not be seen for several weeks or even months, so it’s not a good choice for those expecting a quick fix.
People taking the herb should avoid overexposure to UV light and natural sunlight as it increases your skin’s photosensitivity and could lead to a sunburn or skin rash.
If you do decide to take St. john’s wort, it’s important to obtain it from a source that you trust. It is recommended to take it as a tea, with a common ratio being 2 teaspoons of the dried herb to one cup of boiling water.
Many natural treatments offer efficacy that rivals that of conventional medicine, and St. John’s wort is one of them. However, as with all herbal remedies, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed choice.
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