What is St. John's Wort?
St. John's Wort, also known has hypericum perforatum, Tipton's Weed, or Klamath Weed, is a yellow flowering herb. It contains a number of potent compounds such as hyperforin and hypericin that exhibit antidepressant, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
What are the Benefits of St. John's Wort?
St. John's Wort is famous for its anti-depressant activity. It has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years as a painkiller or sedative, as well as to treat minor to severe health conditions including burns and bruises, mood swings, sleep disorders, bed-wetting in children, malaria, lung and kidney problems, tuberculosis, uterine cramping, PMS, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, breathing problems, hangovers and alcoholism. Preliminary studies have found that St. John's Wort may also help with psoriasis, sore throats, chronic coughs, sinus infections, Parkinson's disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, nerve pain, depression, anxiety and mental disorders.
Uses of St. John's Wort
Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Swings
Studies suggest that St. John's Wort has significant amounts of hyperforin and hypericin which may raise the release of neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) that modulate brain signals between cells and play an important role in the optimal functionality of our nervous system.
Hypericin in St. John's Wort may also be capable of inhibiting a bodily chemical, monoamine oxidase, which is associated with anxiety and depression.
As a result, this herb may induce the sense of well being which can help with mild to moderate depression, mood swings, wintertime blues, low energy levels, and chronic fatigue.
A common recommendation is to take one capsule of St. John's extract of 300mg three times daily with meals while symptoms exist. However, it is recommended to consult your doctor before taking it, particularly if you are taking any other anti-depressants.
Hangovers and Alcoholism
Researchers believe that the potent component of St. John's Wort, hyperforin, may help treat hangovers and alcoholism.
Therefore, a tea made with the flowering tops of St. John's Wort may be effective.
To make St. John's Wort tea take a teabag (or one tablespoon of the flowers) and add it to a cup of boiling water. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes and strain the tea, and then add honey as a natural sweetener. To combat alcoholism, drink one cup of this tea after breakfast and dinner everyday for about 4 to 6 weeks. For relief of hangover symptoms, drink this tea two to three times throughout the day. The tea can be replaced with one daily capsule of 300 mg of St. John's Wort extract.
It is believed that a dopamine dysfunction is one of the causes of Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia. Some studies suggest that St. John's Wort may raise the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Studies also suggest that antioxidant activity of the herb may help with neural degeneration associated with the onset of Parkinson's disease. However, further studies are required to prove the extent of effectiveness of the herb. However, simply drinking one cup of St. John's Wort tea or one capsule of its extract regularly with a meal may inhibit the development of Parkinson's disease in people at risk of developing it.
Sinus Congestion and Chronic Coughing
St. John's Wort has antibiotic and antiviral activity that may help relieve phlegm congestion, sinus infection, flu and bronchitis symptoms. Simply drinking one cup of St. John's Wort tea after breakfast and dinner may help alleviate the throat and sinus problems. To make St. John's Wort tea, simply soak in a tea bag into a cup of boiling water and let it steep for 5 minutes. Add honey or sugar for sweetness if desired.
Wounds and Bruises
St. John's Wort has antibacterial and analgesic activity. Therefore, a balm, oil, or poultice made with St. John's Wort flowers and leaves may help heal cuts, wounds, insect bites, boils, and bruises. St. John's Wort oil can be made by frying 1/2 cup of dried flowers and leaves of the herb in 2 tbsp of mustard oil. Leave the flowers and leaves in the oil and let the mixture cool down. Then add 1/3 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the prepared St. John's Wort oil. Apply it 3-4 times on a wound throughout the day. The prepared oil can be stored in an air tight container in a cool and dark place for emergency use.
What are the Side Effects of St. John's Wort?
It has been reported that St. John's Wort may interact with other drugs or its overdose may cause some side effects such as dry mouth, headache, restlessness, confusion, dizziness, upset stomach, sexual dysfunction, and photosensitivity.
Therefore, it is recommended to consult your physician prior to consuming this herb, particularly if you are being treated for depression, cancer, HIV infection, heart disease or taking blood thinner (such as Digoxin or Warfarin), or birth control pills.
Do not take St. John's Wort if you are pregnant.
Some individuals may be allergic to St. John's Wort, so it is important to contact your doctor if any unexplainable symptoms appear when taking this herb.
To prevent photosensitivity, it is advised to wear a quality sunblock before going out in the sun while taking St. John's Wort supplements.
Studies have also found that the hypericum content in St. John's Wort has tannic acid, which can interfere with the body's ability to absorb iron. Therefore, taking iron supplements daily during the regular consumption of St. John's Wort is recommended.
Where and How to Buy St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort can be purchased at most herbal food stores in the form of dried flowers, tablets, capsules, extracts, teabags and tinctures. When buying St. John's Wort Extract, look for one that is extracted from flowers of the herb and has at least 0.3% of hypericin.