RSSNatural antidepressant is safer than drugs

Posted on Wed, 29 Jul 09

Natural antidepressant is safer than drugs

Fatigue, restlessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, irritability, sleep disturbances, feeling worthless, guilt and loss of interest or pleasure are some of the symptoms of one of the most common medical complaints, depression. In fact depression will affect up to 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men during their life. There is a natural medicine that can help and it is as effective as and has fewer side effects than prescription drugs.

A remarkably large number of clinical studies have assessed the efficacy and safety of the herb St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) for depression, many of which have compared it to prescription medications. St John's Wort has been repeatedly shown to be as effective as prescription drugs for moderate to major depression and have a ten-fold lower incidence of side-effects [1-4].

Investigations have found St John's Wort to be effective within 4-12 weeks and a long-term study found treatment with the herb still safe and effective after a year of use [5].

Generally the dose used of St John's Wort is 1800 mg per day taken in divided doses. Most studies use a high quality extract containing a specified amount of a chemical naturally occurring in the herb called hypericin. The presence of hypericin is considered an indicator of the potency of the herb [6].

If you intend to use St John's Wort it is important to inform your doctor or pharmacist as the herb may interfere with prescription medications [7]. However, be aware that many health professionals are not familiar with the evidence supporting the use of St John's Wort [8].

Like antidepressant drugs, St John's Wort won’t work for everyone but evidence suggests the herb is equally as effective for the management of depressive symptoms, safe and has a lower risk of unwanted side effects.

Image: St John's Wort flower.


1. Linde K, Berner MM, Kriston L. St John's wort for major depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD000448.

2. Rahimi R, Nikfar S, Abdollahi M. Efficacy and tolerability of Hypericum perforatum in major depressive disorder in comparison with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a meta-analysis. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Feb 1;33(1):118-27.

3. Linde K, Berner M, Egger M, Mulrow C. St John's wort for depression: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Psychiatry. 2005 Feb;186:99-107.

4. Schulz V. Safety of St. John's Wort extract compared to synthetic antidepressants. Phytomedicine. 2006 Feb;13(3):199-204.

5. Brattström A. Long-term effects of St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) treatment: a 1-year safety study in mild to moderate depression. Phytomedicine. 2009 Apr;16(4):277-83.

6. Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and Natural Supplements an Evidence Based Guide. 2nd edition. Elsievier Publishing, Australia. 2006.

7. Zhou SF, Lai X. An update on clinical drug interactions with the herbal antidepressant St. John's wort. Curr Drug Metab. 2008 Jun;9(5):394-409.

8. McGarry H, Pirotta M, Hegarty K, Gunn J. General practitioners and St. John's Wort: a question of regulation or knowledge? Complement Ther Med. 2007 Jun;15(2):142-8.

Tags: Depression, St John\'s Wort, Herbal Medicine

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