Published: 09/09/2013 - Updated: 08/09/2019
Author: Prof. Dr. Luis Ruiz-García
Also known as St. John's wort, Hypericum is considered a very useful plant for the treatment of depression. However, the use of this plant as an antidepressant has also generated controversy because of its interactions with other medicines.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has gained a lot of fame, such that in some countries people consume it more than antidepressant drugs. Unfortunately, though despite being a plant it does have some side effects.
It is a plant that grows naturally in meadows and grasslands, on roadsides and on forest margins mixed among other plants. It got its popular name from, and is harvested around the festivities of San Juan (Saint John), when the plant is in full bloom. You must dry the plant in a cool and dry place and once dry, it can be used to prepare infusions.
Infusion of St. John's Wort
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 1 tablespoon of dried Hypericum plant
Add the herb into a cup of boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes before drinking. We recommend drinking an infusion three times a day.
The substance responsible for the antidepressant properties of the wort is hypericin, which, according to studies, inhibits the action of monoamine oxidase (MAO) which is an enzyme with the ability to destroy serotonin. So, by inhibiting this enzyme, serotonin levels are higher in the blood, promoting a state of wellbeing, higher concentration and greater capacity for self-esteem. On the other hand, low levels of serotonin are associated with states of sadness and depressive episodes.
Hypericin is not the only substance that helps improve mood. This plant also contains hyperforin, an element that is relaxing, making it a beneficial plant for treating mild depression and certain anxiety conditions.
Uses of Hypericum
St. John's wort can be found in different forms like capsules of its extract, in tea bags, oils, juices and dyes. The treatments are usually recommended for three to four weeks to begin seeing any signs of improvement. However if the symptoms persist, the treatment can be extended up to 8 weeks. There are some formulas that combine valerian with St. John's wort, as well as gingko biloba, Siberian ginseng, oats and other elements to treat insomnia, depression and even irritable bowel syndrome.
Applied externally, St. John's wort can also be used to heal wounds, minor injuries, eczema, acne and even bruises.
If the dried plant of Hypericum has been macerated for 15 days , you can obtain an oleate which can be used as an anti-inflammatory and vulnerary remedy.
Before consuming this plant, you must take into account that it can interact adversely with other medications, such as inhibitors of serotonin, reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine, sertraline and other drugs which are commonly used to treat depression. St. John's Wort may decrease the effect of these drugs. The use of St. John's Wort is not recommended to those who are being treated with anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV infections.
St. John's Wort is not recommended for women who are using oral contraceptives, as it is believed it could reduce their effect.
If you want to consume St. John's Wort, consult your doctor beforehand, especially if you have one or more of the following: high blood pressure, are undergoing treatment for HIV, heart disease, depression, if have had an organ transplantation, or if you have suffered liver failure or a stroke, since in most of these cases it is not recommended. It is not recommended for women during pregnancy or lactation.
The hypericin can be known to cause photosensitivity, so it is recommended to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
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