St. John's Wort

Herbal Supplements

Peer Reviewed

St. John's wort

St. John's Wort, or St. Johnswort, is a herbal preparation made from the leaves and flowers of this shrub-like plant. The active components are hypericin and pseudohypericin.

This herb is used to treat depression, anxiety, insomnia, hyperinsomnia (excessive sleep), wounds, and hemorrhoids.

Sources of St. John’s Wort
St. John's Wort is available in the following forms: teas, capsules, liquids, and lotions (oil-based). For maximum benefit, purchase standardized products (containing 0.3% hypericin).

Guidelines and Cautions
Always follow package directions.

  • Depression is a serious condition. Do not self-treat depression. Seek the advice of a medical professional.
  • Potential side effects include constipation, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, hives, fatigue, headaches and problems sleeping.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use St. John's Wort.
  • St. John’s Wort may increase sensitivity to sunlight.

Do not take St. John's Wort if taking any of the following medications:

  • MAO inhibitor (monoamine oxidase) (eg, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, selegiline)
  • SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) (eg, fluoxetine, sertraline hydrochloride)
  • Other anti-depressant medication, L-dopa, or 5-hydroxytrytohan.

St. John’s Wort may interact with and/or reduce the effectiveness of some drugs:

  • Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • Irinotecan; a chemotherapy drug
  • Warfarin; a blood thinning medication
  • Digitalis; a heart medication

Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 03/21/16
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George D. Picetti, III, MD
In reviewing the above supplements several observations were noted. First of all there are no scientific papers that review the efficacy of these supplements in refereed journals. Therefore we are not able to comment on how effective they are on a scientific level. These supplements are not held to the same standards as other medications, and thus the dose and concentration may differ among different brands or companies. Although many people claim to have good results from taking these and other supplements, it is always best to discuss this with your doctor before taking these supplements. If you are taking any supplement and are scheduled for surgery, it is imperative that you tell your surgeon and anesthesiologist. Some of these supplements can cause significant changes in your body’s chemical functions, such as slowing blood clot formation, which can be a serious problem during surgery.
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