Latin Name: Hypericum Perforatum
If you are anything like me, the name of the herb kind of throws you off – Excuse me, St. John’s what??? Let me first explain the meaning of the name, before I delve into this plant’s magical powers. This incredible herb blooms right around June 24th, which is when the early Christians celebrated John the Baptist’s birth. Although wort has a very different meaning today, in Old English the word simply meant herb or plant. And if you still are turned off by the name, here is the Latin name for you: Hypericum perforatum (sorry Harry Potter fans, this is not a spell). It’s indigenous to Europe and Western Asia, but can now be found in California, Oregon, Australia and New Zealand. Now that history is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff!
Depression / Anxiety
Just exactly how St. John’s wort works to help with depression and anxiety is still somewhat of a mystery. Two active compounds have been identified, hypericin and hyperforin, and it is believed that these two compounds may affect serotonin in the brain (1). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and helps with mood, sleep and appetite regulation. Studies indicate that lower levels of serotonin are associated with depression, anxiety and suicide. Conventional antidepressant drugs, such as Prozac, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). That’s just a fancy way of saying they help increase serotonin levels in the brain 🙂 Essentially, St. John’s Wort is also an SSRI, but in a less concentrated form. Because of this, the herb is mostly used to treat mild to moderate depression or anxiety and has much fewer and less severe side effects than common depression drugs out on the market today (2). Finally a little recognition for the healing plants!
St. John’s Wort has also been found to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, astringent, and sedative characteristics.
Dosage is typically based on hypericin content, with 1.0mg of hypericin daily usually recommended. The typical dose is 0.3% hypericin at 300mg, three times daily*.
Because St. John’s Wort as anti-depressant and anti-anxiety characteristics, it also can interact negatively with various pharmaceutical drugs. If you are on any medications, please check with your doctor before including St. John’s Wort in your diet. Also, the website drugs.com has a list of medications that St. John’s Wort will interact with.
Fun fact: St. John’s Wort is the favored treatment for depression in Germany, outselling Prozac and other conventional drugs many times over.
There you have it folks! Another weed with amazing health benefits!