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5 Things To Know About St. John’s Wort and Depression

St. John’s wort, a plant that grows in the wild, has been used for centuries for mental health conditions and is widely prescribed for depression in Europe. However, current evidence for using St. John’s wort for depression is not conclusive, and the herb can have serious side effects. It is also important to note that in the United States, while there may be public interest in St. John’s wort to treat depression, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved its use as an over-the-counter or prescription medicine for depression.

  1. St. John’s wort is not a proven therapy for depression. Study results on the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for depression are not conclusive. While there may be public interest in St. John’s wort to treat depression, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved its use as an over-the-counter or prescription medicine for depression.
      
  2. St. John’s wort is known to affect metabolism of a number of drugs and can cause serious side effects. Combining St. John’s wort with certain antidepressants can lead to a potentially life-threatening increase of serotonin, a brain chemical targeted by antidepressants. St. John’s wort can also limit the effectiveness of many prescription medicines, including birth control pills, digoxin, some HIV drugs and cancer medications, and others.
      
  3. Do not use St. John’s wort to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing your health care provider. If depression is not adequately treated, it can become severe and, in some cases, may be associated with suicide. Consult a health care provider if you or someone you know may be depressed.
      
  4. Many dietary supplements have not been tested in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children. Little safety information on St. John’s wort for pregnant women or children is available, so it is especially important to talk with health experts if you are pregnant or nursing or are considering giving a dietary supplement to a child.
      
  5. Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.