St. John’s Wort is well known for its effectiveness against depression, but what many of our clients don’t realize is that this herb is also a powerful tool in fighting stress-related anxiety. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, St. John’s Wort is as effective as antidepressant drugs in treating mild to severe cases of depression. One study even found it more effective than Prozac.
Known by its scientific name, Hypericum perforatum, St. John’s Wort is widely prescribed for depression in Europe for a simple reason: it works. But depression isn’t its only use in herbal medicine.
Most of the research on St. John’s Wort in the past two decades has focused on depression, and as a result we’ve found that family doctors and psychiatrists tend to dismiss the other benefits of St. John’s Wort in favour of the tried and true – depression. Even natural health experts and knowledgeable health food store staff won’t necessarily know that St. John’s Wort can do a lot more than relieve depression, and that one of its greatest benefits is the ability to combat anxiety.
Although St. John’s Wort has little impact on acute anxiety caused by trauma, it does have an effect on slow-building stress that leads to chronic anxiety. The “Bible” of eclectic herbalism, King’s American Dispensary (Felter & Lloyd, 1898), recommends St. John’s Wort for “nervous affectations.” Anxiety connected with stress or depression is exactly the sort of case indicated.
Prolonged stress is an increasingly common concern among our clients at TCNM. Whether it’s due to work stress, family obligations, or financial worries, ongoing stress is exhausting and we know it can eventually lead to loss of interest in life, mild depression, withdrawal from key relationships and painful anxiety. St. John’s Wort has come to be one of the first treatments we consider in cases of stress-related anxiety and depression.
As with any other health condition, the bottom line, of course, is to speak with a health care professional before you attempt to treat or diagnose the problem yourself. Punch “anxiety” into any search engine and you’ll get millions of results, but very little practical information. Finding the right solution for your particular mind and body is a puzzle that takes training and medical experience to solve.
Even natural remedies like St. John’s Wort can have side effects and interactions with other supplements or medication you might be taking. That’s why it’s so important to consult a medical or naturopathic doctor before you start taking any treatment for anxiety. Our naturopaths might spot a crucial piece of information in your medical history or symptomology that’s easy to overlook if you’re too close to the problem, and save you months or years of trouble.
Posted: 2013 March 1