Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
St. John's Wort and Depression
Depression affects 1 in 10 adults in this country. It’s a serious illness that interferes with daily life and causes pain for both the person with the illness as well as their loved ones. We know that many people with depression never seek help, but the majority, even those with severe disease can benefit with conventional treatment.
Still, there is quite a lot of public interest in complementary health approaches for depression, in particular for St. John’s wort. Many people come to NCCAM’s Web site seeking information on St. John’s wort, consistently making it one of the top five search terms every month. Although the herb is widely prescribed for depression in Europe, the fact of the matter is that the current evidence for using St. John’s wort for depression is not conclusive. Plus, there are some serious concerns about the side effects of St. John’s wort and its interactions with many prescription drugs like the heart medication digoxin, as well as warfarin and some cancer medications.
The National Institute for Mental Health has comprehensive resources on depression, including information on symptoms, treatment, and finding help. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, I urge you to check out that information.
NCCAM’s Web site has additional information on St. John’s wort and depression, as well as what the science says about other complementary health approaches for depression like SAMe, relaxation techniques, and yoga. You shouldn’t use St. John’s wort or any other complementary health practice to replace conventional care or to delay seeing a health care provider. If not adequately treated, depression can become severe.
I encourage you to read up on these resources so you can become an informed consumer, talk with your health care provider, and, as always, be well!