Posted on Sun, 13 Mar 11
Despite an unbelievable amount of data demonstrating that the herbal medicine St John’s Wort is a safe and effective treatment for depression it remains in the realm of alternative medicine. It is time for things to change.
More than 50 randomized controlled trials and more than 15 larger observational studies have investigated St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) as a treatment for depression. St John’s Wort is as effective as antidepressants drugs for mild to moderate depression with evidence suggesting benefit in major depression as well.
Furthermore St John’s Wort has clear advantages over antidepressant drugs, in particular a lower risk of side effects. The herb is better tolerated than medication and people are less likely to stop treatment.
St John’s Wort is unique in that it is effective in milder forms of depression. Many treatment guidelines advise against pharmaceutical drug treatments for mild depression due to a poor risk-benefit ratio, however they are often prescribed regardless.
The superior safety and equivalent efficacy of the herb compared to conventional drugs suggests a lower cost comparison and highlights the need to incorporate “alternative” therapies into conventional medicine education and practice.
Solomon D, Ford E, Adams J, Graves N. Potential of St John's Wort for the treatment of depression: the economic perspective. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 Oct 26. [Epub ahead of print]