Perhaps the most well-known effect of St. John’s wort is its anti-depressant nature. It has been widely used to relieve symptoms of depression for generations and is now a popular natural solution that doctors and psychiatrists often prescribe to their patients. It contains a rare combination of antidepressant chemicals that inhibit or delay the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Many studies show that St. John’s wort may help fight mild to moderate depression and anxiety and has fewer side effects than most other prescription antidepressants, such as loss of sex drive. However, it does interact with a number of medications, so it should be taken only under the guidance of a health care provider, especially if you already take medications for depression.
The health benefits of St.John’s wort extend beyond depression, as they help people suffering from anxiety and mood swings as well. By helping to regulate the hormonal balance in the body, St. John’s wort is able to get the metabolism and internal clock back in line, providing help for sleeplessness, irritability, and chronic fatigue. Eliminating chronic stress hormones from the body can also improve overall health and cognitive function, as excess stress hormones can affect various organs.
PMS and Menopause
There are two distinct periods of feminine sexual health that can be challenging in terms of mood swings: pre-menstrual syndrome and menopause. St. John’s wort is widely recommended for women in both these periods, as its chemical constituents have been shown to reduce mood swings and anxiety in menopausal women. Moreover, they reduce the severity of cramping and pre-menstrual irritation and depression.
A 2010 study by S Canning and N Orsi et al at the Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, looked at the efficacy of St John’s Wort for the treatment of PMS. The results of this randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial found that: “St John’s Wort was statistically more beneficial than the placebo for food cravings, swelling, poor co-ordination, insomnia, confusion, headaches, crying and fatigue”.
Eases Withdrawal Symptoms
Early indications show that the use of St. John’s wort can be very helpful in easing cravings and withdrawal symptoms after quitting cigarettes, alcohol or other addictive substances. This could prove very useful, as recovery from addiction is challenging.
Restores Hormonal Balance
As we already know about the antidepressant effects of St. John’s wort, the active ingredients also have strong effects on hormone regulation in the body. Hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid disorders and this herb has been shown to reduce its symptoms and help the thyroid gland release normal levels of hormones again.
St. John’s wort has antibacterial properties and may also help fight inflammation that’s at the root of most diseases. When applied topically, it relieves symptoms associated with minor wounds and skin irritations, working as a natural treatment for eczema, a home remedy for burn relief and a way to naturally treat hemorrhoids.
The soothing nature of St. John’s wort and the rich concentration of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds make it perfect for easing the pain of arthritis, gout, joint discomfort, and muscle ache. Just as it helps to ease inflammation on the skin and in the gut, St. John’s wort also lowers inflammation in the cardiovascular system, thereby helping lower blood pressure and decrease stress on the heart.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
This type of depression that only occurs in the winter due to lack of sunlight, has also been found to respond favourably to St John’s Wort. Whilst one of the most effective treatments for SAD is to spend time every day in full spectrum light, research has found that using this herb in combination with phototherapy works even better. Whilst one of the side effects of this plant can be increased photosensitivity, lightbox therapy can be safely combined with St John’s Wort because lightboxes do not produce ultraviolet light.
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Recent research has found that SSRI’s are effective against OCD, leading researchers to speculate about the potential of St John’s Wort as a natural alternative. A small clinical study was done where 13 people with OCD received St John’s Wort, twice daily, for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, clinicians rated 42% of the participants as “much” or “very much improved”, 50% as “minimally improved” and 8% (one person), as “unchanged”. It was concluded that at the very least, St John’s Wort warrants further study as a treatment for this debilitating condition.
Reduces Pregnancy Pains
During pregnancy, hemorrhoids and other stretched out areas of the body can become very painful. Although it is not recommended to take oral supplements throughout the pregnancy, topical application of St. John’s wort salves and paste are highly recommended for women suffering from these pregnancy-related conditions.