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People most commonly use St. John's wort for depression and mood disorders. There is some strong scientific evidence that it is effective for mild to moderate depression. St. John's wort is also used for symptoms of menopause and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these other uses.
St. John’s wort has been used to treat a variety of conditions. Several brands are standardized for content of hypericin and hyperforin, which are among the most researched active components of St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort has been found to be superior to placebo and equivalent to standard antidepressants for the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Studies of St. John’s wort for the treatment of major depression have had conflicting results. St. John’s wort is generally well tolerated, although it may potentially reduce the effectiveness of several pharmaceutical drugs. St. John’s wort has been used to treat a variety of conditions. It also has been suggested to alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome2 and obsessive-compulsive disorder3; however, these applications have been studied less extensively. Additional studies of St. John’s wort, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, are underway.4 This review focuses solely on the use of St. John’s wort for the treatment of depression.
The main active components of St. John’s wort are thought to be hypericin and hyperforin.5 St. John’s wort also contains other common plant constituents (e.g., flavonoids and flavonoid derivatives, xanthone derivatives, amentoflavone, biapigenin, volatile oil) that may have antidepressant effects. Although additional research is needed to definitively understand the effects of these components alone and in combination, most available St. John’s wort formulations are now standardized to include hypericin (range: 0.1 to 0.4 percent) and hyperforin (range: 2.0 to 4.0 percent) because these constituents have been researched the most extensively.A Cochrane Systematic Review9 used specific criteria to examine the use of St. John’s wort for depression. Study limitations included heterogeneous diagnoses of depression, short trial durations, and low dosages of standard antidepressants in comparison trials. In all but one of the 27 clinical studies (n = 2,291) of different hypericum preparations, investigators concluded that St. John’s wort was either more effective than placebo or as effective as older pharmaceutical antidepressants in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. (Source: www.aafp.org)