It’s not unusual to wake up feeling gloomy or to have days when you feel blue or unhappy about things. For many people, these feelings are temporary and often attributable to an event or situation, like a job loss or an illness. But for millions of people, feeling down is not just the symptom of some life event; it’s a very real health issue and one that often leads to a diagnosis of depression. While many people with depression are prescribed prescription medication to try to help them feel better, still others are looking for a more natural option for battling depression. For many, they have found the answer in St. John’s wort, an herbal remedy.
But does St. John’s wort really work as an anti-depressant? What is in this herbal remedy that might have such welcome healing powers, and what do the studies have to say about it?
According to About.com’s website section on alternative medicine, St. John’s wort is one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States. The plant has bright yellow flowers and because they typically bloom in late June, right around St. John the Baptist’s birthday, it was named after him. The word “wort” is Old English for “plant.”
St. John’s wort definitely has active ingredients that are responsible for whatever health benefits it may give us, but there is some question as to which ones are truly doing all of the work. Extracts of St. John’s wort are typically standardized to something called hypericin, and then another compound called hyperforin is present in the herb as well and may also help with its possible antidepressive powers. Traditionally, hypericin was thought to be the key player in St. John’s wort but more frequently, hyperforin is thought to be the primary ingredient. Other compounds in the plant that may or may have specific and positive medicinal effects include flavonoids and tannins.
One thing that is interesting about St. John’s wort is that although numerous studies have been conducted on it and its possible link to helping with depression, no one seems to know how or why the herb works. In general, the theory is that St.