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St. John's Wort:  Does it Work?  Is it Safe?

If you've arrived at this page, you may be looking for a natural remedy for anxiety or depression. You want to know if St. John's Wort works.  You want to know if it's safe.  Yes, and yes.   And no, and no.  Let me explain.

St. John's Wort, by both historical use and at least some scientific studies, does in fact alleviate mild to moderate depression and anxiety for many people.  Whether or not it will work for you, you won't know until you try it.  This is also true for Paxil, etc.  People deciding to try antidepressant medication often need to try several before they find one that works for them.

The reason for this is that each person's physiology is highly individual, and the complexity of what is going on in your body is impossible to understand it all.  We make attempts.  Doctors and scientists make attempts to say how a certain hormone works in your body, or why you're gaining weight, or what causes asthma.

In many cases, if you were actually able to isolate any one organ or hormone or issue, what scientists discover could be said to be The Truth.  However, this is not how your body works. Before the germ theory of disease, we had a different theory.  And we had full explanations for what was going on, and why what we were doing to fix it worked (when it did).  I don't believe there will ever come a day when we can grasp the full picture of what is going on inside of us.  So, although we have lots of evidence to say this drug works for depression, or whatever, ultimately, you won't know if it works FOR YOU until you try it.


The main thing for you to be concerned about is the quality of the product you purchase.  There have been many studies done on how much of what's advertised to be in the product is actually in the product, and many times, the product has come up short.

Standardized vs. whole herb

There are a lot of people, including most doctors and medically-oriented websites that will tell you to only take the standardized version of St. John's Wort and other herbs, because then you'll know you're getting a certain quality.  As noted above, even this may not guarantee that you will get what's on the label.

Most herbalists prefer using the whole plant to an extracted version.  Whole plants contain many components that work synergistically together.  Some of these actions have been identified, many have not.  The historical use of plants for conditions such as mild depression is based on using the whole plant, not some isolated extract of it.  Herbs that have become extracts may be more potent and no longer have the safety net that is usually inherent in the Divine Design of whole plants.

Side Effects

St. John's Wort has caused increased sensitivity to sunlight in some grazing animals. There is some talk about it being an issue for humans, but not much evidence.  If you are taking large amounts of standardized extract (which I don't recommend), make sure you talk to your doctor.  You may want to avoid sun exposure while taking it.


St. John's Wort can interact with many medications, including antidepressants, birth control pills, HIV and cancer drugs, heart and blood thinning medications, and Cyclosporine.  Be sure to discuss taking St. John's Wort with your doctor if you are taking any of these medications.

Don't take in pregnancy, or if you have major depression or thoughts of suicide.

Benefits of St. John's Wort, botanical name Hypericum perforatum

St Johns Wort is a sunny plant that grows along the highways and roadsides where I live in Northern California.

It makes a beautiful red tincture and oil with the fresh flowers, picked in mid-June through early July.

St. Johns Wort has been used since the time of Ancient Greece.  It has a long history of use for anxiety and depression.

St. Johns Wort has sedating and pain-relieving qualities.  It can relax tight muscles and headaches, and also relieves insomnia.

It is also anti-inflammatory and has been used for thousands of years to treat wounds and burns.  It can reduce scarring when used on burns.  It works really well on sunburns.

St Johns Wort tincture is excellent for mild to moderate depression and anxiety.  It works especially well for menopausal depression.  It restores the nervous system, so is helpful with nervous exhaustion and inner frustration.  It can take up to 6-8 weeks to notice the antidepressant effects, so be patient.  For anxiety, it may only take a few doses or a few days.

It can also moisten dry menopausal tissues.

Dosage, Preparation

Fresh flower tincture, 20-60 drops, 3-4 x day

Tea, use 1 ounce herb to 1 pint of water.  Drink 1 cup 3 times/day.

Here are some brands I recommend:

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