St John's Wort

What is St John's Wort and can it help reduce anxiety?

The modern world sees more and more of us turn to natural, time-tested cures that don't contain the same chemicals that prescription medications do. As we become aware of the kind of things we do and don't like to consume; so too do we become aware of the old herbal treatments and their many benefits. Thanks to scientific progress we are now able to examine herbs like St John's Wort and find out what they do, and don't, treat. So can this once prevalent treatment help reduce anxiety? Let's find out!

What is St John's Wort?

Simply put: St John's Wort is an unfortunately named herb.

It is a bright, cheerful yellow flowering plant known by the Latin name of Hypericum Perforatum. It is picked and dried then ground up into pills or teas or pulped to make a liquid extract.

It has many active ingredients that cause no shortage of reactions to the body, but we are interested in one specific benefit: can it treat anxiety?

Can St John's Wort treat anxiety?

Numerous studies have been performed into the chemical interactions that St John's Wort causes within the body. However, since the FDA class it as a supplement and not a medicine. As a result, there haven't been enough studies into how it interacts with other medications.

There have been several trials looking at the effects. These are detailed in this article by Healthline. We learned that St John's Wort could treat mild to moderate depression to a similar level as prescription medications, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it aids against anxiety.

Anxiety and Depression might be in the same range of mental health problems, but they are two entirely separate beasts. In the Healthline example, we see that St John's Wort had very similar effects on the body as Fluoxetine does. That means that both of them showed progress in treating depression but that both of them show Anxiety as a side effect.

We turned to Mental Health Charity MIND for advice. They state that St John's Wort can be used to treat mild anxiety and cite the active compounds of Hypericin and Hyperforin which both have anti-depressant qualities. More specifically, it is thought that these chemicals inhibit the blocking of Serotonin to the brain.

The reason for the mismatch? It is thought that St John's Wort interacts with medications in a way that the body sees as completely productive. It helps the blood to break down chemicals, toxins and anything else that isn't supposed to be in the body. That means that if you take your prescription anti-anxiety medication at the same time as you are taking St John's Wort, there is a high chance that the herb will break the drug down before it has had a chance to do its job.


So, does St John's Wort treat anxiety? Yes and no. If you are already taking a prescription medication designed specifically to ease your anxiety, then the answer is no. If you know you have an anxiety issue, but for whatever reason, you haven't gone to a doctor yet, then yes.

It might even help you in the first instance depending on what medications you are taking. Ask your doctor if you are still unsure.

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Published 14 January 2019. Written by Adam Scott.

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