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Despite there being evidence that St John’s wort is effective in treating mood disorders such as depression, there are still concerns about how the remedy is used, and the possible side effects and drug interactions.

What Is St John’s Wort?

Like other natural remedies, St John’s wort is a herb of which the leaves and flowers are used in medicinal preparations. The majority of those who have heard of it know that it is a common remedy used in the natural treatment of depression, and there has been some scientific evidence showing it can be effective for milder or moderate cases of depression.

St John’s wort has also been used in other medical disorders, such as ADHD, menopause symptoms, seasonal affective disorder, heart palpitations, fibromyalgia and many others. Generally it is taken by mouth, but it can also be made into an oil for application to the skin to treat bruises, muscle pain, bug bites and other minor irritations of the skin.

Despite there being evidence that St John’s wort is effective in treating mood disorders such as depression, there are still concerns about how the remedy is used, and the possible side effects and drug interactions. Of note, any St John’s wort preparations are banned in France, largely because of the risk of interaction with other medicines. Many other countries are moving towards including warnings on packaging for St John’s wort to make people more aware of the potential dangers of taking this herbal medicine.

St Johhn's Wort Side Effects

Provided you are not taking any other medications, research has shown that it is safe to take St John’s wort for a short period, no more than 3 months. Also, the correct dosages must be taken as too large a dose can be harmful. Possible side effects can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps and sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Skin irritation
  • Photosensitivity
  • Increased risk of Serotonin Syndrome
  • Menstruation problems
  • Mania or psychosis
  • High levels of thyroid stimulating hormone
  • Altered sugar processing
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Liver damage
  • Altered blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Swelling
  • Insomnia
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Increase cholesterol
  • Difficulty with anesthetic induction
  • Allergic reactions

As you can see by the list above, there are numerous potential side effects from taking St John’s wort. Some of these side effects may not seem too bad or harmful, but others are very serious indeed.

Who Should Not Take St John’s Wort?

Certain medical conditions can be greatly affected by St John’s wort, so it is imperative you know who should or should not take this medicine. As with any herbal remedy, you should always seek professional advice from a health care worker first.

Pregnancy

To date there has not been any definitive research into the effect on pregnant humans, but during lab tests on rats, those given St John’s wort were more prone to deliver babies with birth defects. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you do not take this medicine if you are pregnant or if you are breastfeeding.

Fertility Problems

Researchers are concerned that St John’s wort may cause infertility. There is no definitive proof yet, but the concerns are strong enough that if you do have fertility problems or are trying to conceive you should avoid taking St John’s wort.

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