Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. John's Wort for Anxiety and Depression

St. John's wort is a popular remedy for depression. When combined with other herbs, we can use St. John's wort for anxiety associated with depression. It has been observed that stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia often occur together. A combination of St. John's wort with other herbal remedies for anxiety (such as passionflower) is thought to have a synergistic action in relieving the symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Such a combination is thought to soothe the mind, promote emotional well-being, and improve sleep patterns.

The use of St. John's wort for uplifting melancholic moods is an ages old practice. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that this herb had magical powers. They used it to cheer up a gloomy person, and to relieve a number of other complaints. According to a modern, scientific study conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, the extracts of this herb are superior to placebo in treating patients with major depression.

Before using St. John's wort for anxiety or mood disorders, it is recommended to rule out the presence of any underlying physiological disorder that might be the cause of anxiety or depression. Certain heart, thyroid, and other endocrine disorders can produce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. For example, lethargy and depression can be symptoms of hypothyroidism or an under-active thyroid gland. On the other hand, anxiety and sleep disturbances can be symptoms of hyperthyroidism or an over-active thyroid gland. Since these underlying physiological disorders can't be cured by consuming antidepressants, it is advisable to consult a doctor and rule out the presence of such physical disorders. If these physiological disorders are present, self-treatment can only delay their diagnosis and treatment.

Anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness are often associated with an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. St. John's wort for anxiety and depression is thought to work by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the synaptic clefts of neurons. It is interesting to note that synthetic antidepressants such as Prozac (fluoxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), etc., also seem to work by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. However, St. John's wort is believed to have lesser and milder side-effects than fluoxetine, venlafaxine, and similar antidepressants.

The most common side-effects of this herb include sensitivity to sunlight, dizziness, dryness of mouth, etc. This herb can adversely react with a number of other medicines and substances such as antidepressants, amphetamines, 5-HTP, oral contraceptives, lithium, tryptophan, selegiline, anti-virals, immunosuppressants, grapefruit juice, garlic supplements, etc. One should avoid St. John's wort for anxiety or depression during pregnancy or lactation. This herb also decreases the efficiency of certain oral-contraceptive pills. You should also avoid it if you are suffering from liver or kidney diseases. It is recommended to use a sunscreen lotion or avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, since this herb can cause photosensitivity.

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