In the News: Proven Supplements for Depression

| 3/3/2011 12:32:47 PM

L.HoltA CNN article earlier this week explored the most commonly popular supplements for depression, taking into account the body of research concerning the effectiveness of each one. Among the more effective supplements were two familiar herbs: saffron and St. John’s wort.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has long been used as a treatment for depression. In 1997 it was the nation’s most popular medicinal herb. Although CNN’s report advises using St. Johns wort only for mild cases, some studies have shown this herb to be effective in more severe cases of depression, even when compared directly with pharmaceutical antidepressants (these studies are only promising, not conclusive).

St. John's wort may be an effective treatment for moderate depression.
Photo by Frank Mayfield/Courtesy

Some people choose St. John’s wort because of its relatively fewer side effects, but it is important to note that the herb may affect the metabolic rate of other medications, disrupting one or more treatments. Additionally, St. John’s wort is known to increase an individual’s likelihood of sunburn and skin rashes due to photosensitivity, especially if taken for a long period of time. As with many herbs, St. John’s wort must be taken continuously to have a significant effect: it is recommended that you allow three to six weeks before judging results, depending on the method of consumption.

How to use it: Dried St.-John’s-wort flowers can be used to make a tea; use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb steeped in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Drinking one to two cups of tea a day for at least four weeks is recommended.

Commercial St. John’s wort extracts standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin (similar wording often appears on the label) are taken in doses of one 300 mg capsule three times a day or 3 to 4 droppers full of the tincture twice a day. It takes from three to six weeks to work; ­increasing the dose doesn’t make it work more quickly.