Product Description: St. John’s WortSt. John’s wort is an herbal product that may be used as an alternative medicine to treat a wide range of health conditions. The scientific name for the yellow-flowered plant known as St. John’s wort is Hypericum perforatum (NIH, 2016). It has been used by people in Europe for hundreds of years (Husney, 2017). Today, the extract of St. John’s wort is available as a dietary supplement in pill form.
There is no single intended use for St. John’s wort. One of the most common uses is to ameliorate the symptoms of mild to moderate depression (Husney, 2017). The scientific reesearch results supporting this use are mixed (NIH, 2016). Some of the other conditions that are commonly treated by St. John’s wort include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), social anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hepatitis C, pain from diabetic neuropathy, and burning mouth syndrome (Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015). However, there is some research indicating that St. John’s wort may not be effective for treating these conditions (Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015). There are also inconclusive results regarding whether St. John’s wort is effective for treating other conditions for which it is sometimes used, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), seasonal affective disorder (SAD), genital herpes, cold sores, pain from sciatica, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, weight loss, and quitting smoking (Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015; NIH, 2016).
Side Effects of St. John’s Wort
The side effects of St. John’s wort are usually mild (Husney, 2017). Some of the side effects include increased sun sensitivity, anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, insomnia, strange dreams, headache, skin rash, tingling skin, and/or sexual dysfunction (NIH, 2016; Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015). It is also possible to experience serotonin-related side effects if St. John’s wort is taken in conjunction with antidepressants or other drugs that impact the release of serotonin (NIH, 2016).
Adverse reactions to St. John’s wort are rare. However, it is important to stop taking John’s Wort immediately and call a doctor in cases of adverse reactions, which include severe skin rash, severe skin irritation, or severe sunburn that involves redness, burning, and blistering (Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015). If St. John’s wort is being taken in conjunction with antidepressants or narcotic pain medications, some possible adverse reactions include severe irritability, hallucinations, fever, rapid heart rate, overactive reflexes, vomiting, severe diarrhea, coordination loss, and fainting (Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015). It is also possible to have an allergic reaction to St. John’s wort, which is typically characterized by hives, breathing troubles, or welling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat (Grand Traverse Surgery, 2015).
It is important to be aware of the risks and benefits of using an herbal product like St. John’s wort instead of a prescription medication. For instance, one benefit is that the side effects of St. John’s wort are generally less severe than the side effects for traditional medications used to treat depression (Husney, 2017). However, it is important to remember that prescription medications must go through a strict government approval process through the FDA. Thus, prescription medications must meet high standards for safety and efficacy that are not required for herbal products like St. John’s wort. With St. John’s wort, the rigorous research supporting its effectiveness is mixed at best, so it is necessary to rely on anecdotal evidence and historical claims when deciding whether or not to try it.
For more information about St. John’s wort, patients can visit the website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). St. John’s wort is included as a health topic on this website. Patients can also find information on St. John’s wort in the Health Topics section of the website of Grand Traverse Surgery.
- Husney, A. (2017). St. John’s wort. Retrieved from http://www.grandtraversesurgery.com/
- St. John’s wort. (2015). Grand Traverse Surgery. Retrieved from http://www.grandtraversesurgery.com/
- St. John’s wort. (2016). NIH. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/