St. John's wort is one of the most popular natural remedies for panic attacks. But, as with many other herbal remedies, it's use is fraught with controversy. Here are some of the benefits and risks of using St. John's wort. Always consult with a trained medical professional before using this or any other natural anxiety remedy.
What is St. John's Wort?
St. John's wort is a perennial shrub with yellow flowers which bloom in mid to late summer around the time of the feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24th. The earliest documented uses of St. John's wort come from the ancient Greeks who used it as a remedy for nervous conditions some 2,500 years ago. It's medicinal benefits come from the active ingredients hyperforin and hypericin which are found in both it's flowers and leaves. These substances are thought to inhibit serotonin (5-HT) reuptake much like many selective sertonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant drugs. St. John's wort can be taken in a variety of forms including teas, tablets, tinctures, capsules, powder and even dried herb formulas.
St. John's wort is largely used to treat mild to moderate forms of depression and as a natural anxiety remedy. In Germany, where herbal remedies are still widely used, St. John's wort is prescribed about 50% of the time to treat depression. Short-term (1-3 month) studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic conclude that: St. John's wort is more effective than placebo (sugar pill), and equally effective as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. Other studies have sought to refute these claims, but the Mayo clinic has questioned the methodologies of those studies and held fast to their conclusions giving St. John's wort a “A" grade rating for its proven benefits in regard to depression and anxiety.
Although St. John's wort is typically considered a safe natural anxiety remedy, some side-effects have been reported. These include upset stomach, increased sensitivity to sunlight, fatigue/sedation, restlessness or anxiety, *** dysfunction (including impotence), dizziness, headache, and dry mouth. Also, because of it's effect on serotonin levels, St. John's wort is not recommended for those already on antidepressants and other medications including birth-control pills and those used in HIV and cancer treatment. It is also considered unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
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