Saturday, January 25, 2014

St. John's Wort, Depression, and Hot Flashes

Many people, both men and women, take the herbal treatment St. John's Wort for mild-to-moderate depression. In the case of menopausal women, it is a safe, more natural alternative compared to hormone replacement therapy when depression is one of their symptoms. Like some of the other alternative medicines being used to relieve menopausal symptoms today, St. John's Wort comes from a flower and is considered very safe to use.

The difference between mild-to-moderate depression and more serious depression is the number of symptoms a person experiences and for how long. See the resource listed below for more information on the signs of depression.

What Do the Clinical Trials Tell Us?

There have been several clinical trials suggesting that St. John's Wort is effective in relieving mild-to-moderate depression, yet, according to a report published in the Journal of American Medical Association, it was no more effective than the use of a placebo in these cases. The report blamed the results on the poor design of those studies.

There have been a few trials of combination therapy using St. John's Wort and black cohosh. When women were randomized to either treatment or placebo, results showed significant improvement of menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes, for women in the treatment group compared with the placebo group.

In addition to treating mild to moderate depression, a new study conducted at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran suggests that St. John's Wort can help relieve hot flashes. The study consisted of 100 women approximately 50 years old who had been experiencing at least one hot flash every day. The study revealed that in a group of randomly assigned women, those taking St. John's Wort experienced significantly fewer hot flashes than the women who took a placebo. Not only did it help reduce frequency of hot flashes, but also reduced their intensity.

Typically, trials use 300 mg of St. John's Wort given three times a day, which is the dose that offers a therapeutic effect. It's important to remember that this herb is not effective for more serious depression, which should be treated by your healthcare provider.

St. John's Wort is readily available over the counter in most pharmacies, supermarkets, and natural food stores. It can be taken in two separate forms: liquid or pills, and comes in tablets, capsules, tinctures, and even tea bags.

Side Effects and Concerns

By itself, St. John's Wort is not considered especially dangerous. The most serious side effects typically consist of dizziness, gas pains, and fatigue. However, the most trouble is associated with its ability to negate the effectiveness of other drugs. For example, it often has a negative interaction with antidepressants. It has even been reported to interfere with birth control pills and some heart disease medications, reducing their effectiveness.

For this reason, it is important that you discuss St. John's Wort with your doctor before taking it. If you experience any allergic reactions, increased blood pressure, or upset stomach while taking it, contact your doctor immediately.

Everyone's situation and body is different. Only your healthcare provider can evaluate your specific situation and prescribe an appropriate plan for dealing with your specific needs.

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