In a document on Complementary Medicine and Mental Health published by
the mental health charity MIND it was revealed that people with anxiety and depression often try complementary therapies like
herbal medicine because of the side effects of anti depressant medication. Research
has indicated that herbs like St Johns Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) can have a beneficial effect on mild to moderate forms
of depression but its not effective for severe forms. Studies indicate that St
Johns Wort is better tolerated and produces less side effects than antidepressants.
However contrary to popular belief St Johns Wort can and does have some potential
for side effects in some people such as dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, increased sensitivity to sunlight
etc, but these are generally less severe than those of anti depressant medication. Herbal
medicines can take longer to work and are not as potent as conventional medication, having said this St Johns Wort is widely
used in Germany, where doctors prescribed nearly 66 million daily doses in 1994 for psychological health problems, in fact
German physicians prescribe St Johns Wort about 20 times more often than the anti depressant Prozac.
In order to obtain the best treatment for depression it is of paramount importance
that you dont self diagnose or self treat by using St Johns Wort bought from a high street shop. The quality of St Johns Wort can vary, for example in one research study, laboratory tests on 10 St Johns
Wort products found that the potency varied. You need to see your GP to get a
correct diagnosis and consult a fully trained Medical Herbalist trained by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, you
will find them in the Yellow Pages under Herbalists, they should have the initials MNIMH after their surname.
For some people the severity of the depression is too severe and the St Johns Wort
may not be effective. The depression may get worse or may develop suicidal
thoughts and impulses. In these cases its vital to see your GP and it may be
clinically necessary to take antidepressant medication.
St Johns Wort should never be taken at the same time as antidepressant medication
and caution must be taken if you are intending to take St Johns Wort with other prescribed medications such as the contraceptive
pill, anticoagulants, anti organ rejection drugs, anti HIV drugs, etc. as St John's Wort can reduce the effectiveness
of these medications. Caution is also needed in cases of health problems
such as diabetes,manic depression etc, it should be avoided in pragnancy and when breast feeding, but your medical herbalist
will advise. If you have to go into hospital for surgery make sure you tell your anaesthetist you are taking herbal medicines.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY
Depression should never be
treated by medication alone and this is applicable to St Johns Wort also. Depression
occurs due to a matrix of psychological and physiological factors and its important that these psychological factors are also
dealt with by talking therapy and stress management which will help to improve your anxiety/depression resistance and help
to reduce the chances of suffering a future depressive episode.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE
Herbs like St Johns Wort are thought to work a little bit like a class of antidepressants called
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) which can take up to 6 weeks to achieve therapeutic activity, it should be taken for
6 months but your medical herbalist will guide you on this matter. It is also
useful to note that research suggests liquid extracts of St Johns Wort are better than dried extracts. Your Medical Herbalist will guide you on this matter.