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St. John's Wort

St. John’s wort gets its namesake because it blooms on John the Baptist’s birthday. Also known as Hypericum perforatum, St. John’s wort is a flowering shrub native to Europe and is most commonly used to treat depression, as well as symptoms associated with menopause [1].

St. John’s wort is typically taken in pill or liquid form, but can also be ingested as a tea, or applied topically as an ointment or cream. Its health benefits are just as diverse and below are only just a few of the common conditions for which St. John’s wort can be effective as a naturopath treatment option.


St. John’s wort is a powerful mood regulator. Dopamine, monoamine-oxides, and serotonin are found in the leaves of the plant, all of which release chemicals thought to induce feelings of happiness in the brain. St. John’s wort is so effective in treating depression; studies have proven it rivals even prescription medications in terms of effectiveness [2].


St. John’s wort has proven effective in regulating hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause. It is found to be the most effective in menopausal women when taken in conjunction with another natural supplement, black cohosh, which is a member of the buttercup family [3].


When taken in combination with Valerian root, a natural sedative used to treat insomnia, St. John’s wort can effectively reduce symptoms associated with anxiety [4].


St. John’s wort contains a phytochemical that works to increase serotonin levels in the brain. This helps in combating depression, and since depression is often a byproduct of hypothyroidism, St. John’s wort has proved helpful in those suffering from the condition.


The presence of the chemical hypericin is what makes St. John’s wort beneficial in alleviating symptoms associated with arthritis. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage around certain joints wears away and causes pain and inflammation. Hypericin helps to reduce inflammation, thus making it an ideal supplement for arthritis sufferers.


Like arthritis, gout affects the joints of the body. Uric acid in the bloodstream crystallizes and attaches to the joints and connective tissue, causing swelling, pain, and inflammation. St. John’s wort can help to reduce these symptoms.


St. John’s wort is a strong antiviral that is used to strengthen the immune system against infection by hepatitis and/or AIDS. A 2005 study discovered a protein found in St. John’s wort inhibits HIV progressing to the AIDS virus [5]. There is some controversy surrounding the validity of St. John’s wort’s effectiveness on such conditions, as high doses of the supplement need to be consumed in order to treat, which can have toxic repercussions in some.


The leaves of the St. John’s wort plant contain melatonin, which aid in regulating the body’s natural sleep cycle.


The hyperforin contained in St. John’s wort makes this supplement a go-to after a night of excessive imbibing. St. John’s wort is especially effective for a hangover when taken as a tea the morning after [6].


St. John’s wort contains cortisol, which helps in regulating hormones. Hormones play a key role in contributing to the development of acne. In addition, the anti-inflammatory agents found in the supplement can reduce redness and inflammation of the skin.


The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial ingredients in St. John’s wort have demonstrated to be beneficial in assisting the healing of burns, especially within the first twenty-four hours of occurrence [7].  As an oil or cream applied topically, it is effective in remedying sunburn, as well as more severe and acute burns, and can be ingested in pill form as a pain reliever.

Lesions and Wounds

As with burns, when applied topically, St. John’s wort is thought to reduce scarring and accelerate wound healing by encouraging blood circulation [8].  In addition, it has antimicrobial properties that can speed the healing process when used to treat cuts and scrapes.

Cautions and Warnings Associated with St. John’s Wort

Although the benefits of taking St. John’s wort are plentiful, there are some potential side effects to be aware of. Namely, St. John’s wort can interact with a number of prescription medications. In fact, those taking any type of prescription medication should discuss with their doctor prior to using St. John’s wort. For instance, taking St. John’s wort alongside prescription antidepressants can result in serotonin toxicity or serotonin syndrome, a condition where there is excessive serotonin in the body. When serotonin syndrome occurs, diarrhea, fever, tremors, sweating, and agitation can result.

St. John’s wort can also have a number of additional and unwanted side effects, including:

  •      Headache
  •      Anxiety
  •      Insomnia
  •      Irritability
  •      Nausea
  •      Fatigue
  •      Photosensitivity

Additionally, there have been claims that St. John’s wort can work as an anticancer or help to combat symptoms associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), however, studies have largely proven inconclusive. Many such studies attribute positive results to the placebo effect in which those participating in the study feel relief simply by knowing they may be taking a remedy that could help alleviate their symptoms.

St. John’s wort supplement has also been found to render some medications ineffective. Similar to avoiding grapefruits or oranges when taking certain medications, St. John’s wort can encourage the body to produce enzymes that allow the body to rid itself of chemicals faster [9].

Overall, St. John’s wort has many benefits; including serve as a mood elevator, pain reliever, and anti-inflammatory. However, there are potential side effects and interactions St. John’s wort can have when taken with other prescription medications, which should be taken into consideration and discussed with your physician prior to use.

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[1] “St. John’s wort”

[2] “St. John’s wort Skincare Benefits and Uses: Heal, Soothe, & Firm Your Skin”

[3] “Black Cohosh and St. John’s Wort May Improve Menopausal Symptoms”

[4] “Can St. John’s Wort Truly Help Your Anxiety and Depression?”

[5] “St. John’s wort protein found to suppress HIV in lab”

[6] “16 Amazing Benefits of St. John’s Wort for Skin, Hair, and Health”

[7] “Investigation of acute effects of Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort-Kantaron) treatment in experimental burns and comparison with silver sulfadiazine treatment”

[8] “St. John’s Wort”

[9] “St. John’s Wort: The Benefits and the Dangers”

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