Benefits Of St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) For Health

Benefits Of St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) For Health

St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)

St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is known as other name: Amber Touch-and-heal, Goatweed, Hypericum, Johnswort, Klamath Weed, Rosin Rose, St. John's Grass, St. John's Wort, Tipton Weed...

St. John's wort (botanical name Hypericum Perforatum) is also known as Tipton's weed, Klamath weed and goat weed. It is an aromatic perennial plant belonging to the Hypericaceae family. The herb is native to Europe, but over the years has been introduced to several temperate regions across the globe, especially in the United States, and is found to grow naturally in numerous meadows. The herb derived its name St. John's wort because it bears golden yellow blossoms that appear in abundance particularly on June 24 - the day customarily commemorated as the birthday of John the Baptist. The aerial parts of the plants, including the leaves and flowering tops that are therapeutically applied are harvested at about that time.

Benefits Of St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) For Health
St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) Picture

St John's wort stems are erect, branched in the upper section, and can grow to 1 m high. St John's wort can be visually recognized by leaf and flower type. Yellow, five petaled flowers approximately 20 mm across occur between late Spring and early to mid Summer. Leaves exhibit translucent dots when held up to the light, giving them a "perforated' appearance. When flowers or seed pods are crushed, a reddish/purple liquid is produced.

The St John's wort flowers of the plant have been used throughout history as a natural herbal remedy in order to benefit the body in numerous ways. The flowering tops of St. John's wort are used to prepare teas and tablets containing concentrated extracts.

Benefits Of St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) For Health

The therapeutic properties of St. John's wort was known to men since ancient times and even primeval authorities on medicine like Dioscorides and Hippocrates were aware of the plant's remedial benefits. In fact, the herb was recommended for effectively treating several medical conditions right from the Middle Ages. The tea has also been found to be effectual in treating nervousness, depression and restlessness. Many people who have used the herbal tea claim that the formulation is also useful as a diuretic as well as for treating a number of medical conditions, including insomnia and gastritis.

In effect, using St. John's wort has proved to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of painful, intense and sporadic menstruation and premenstrual syndrome or PMS. In addition, the herb also possesses diuretic properties and reduces fluid withholding as well as speeds up the process of eradicating toxins through urination. St. John's wort is also an effective medication to cure bedwetting by kids and children. Moreover, the herb has proved to be helpful in treating painful conditions like arthritis and gout.

St. John's wort has long been used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory for strains, sprains, and contusions. St. John's wort also has been used to treat muscular spasms, cramps, and tension that results in muscular spasms.

Benefits Of St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) For Health
St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) Picture

Bioflavonoids, in general, serve to reduce vascular fragility and inflammation. Since flavonoids improve venous-wall integrity, St. John's wort is useful in treating swollen veins. St. John's wort preparations may be ingested for internal bruising and inflammation or following a traumatic injury to the external muscles and skin.

The oil is also useful when applied to wounds and bruises or rubbed onto strains, sprains, or varicose veins. When rubbed onto the belly and breasts during pregnancy, the oil may also help prevent stretch marks. Topical application is useful to treat hemorrhoids and aching, swollen veins that can occur during pregnancy.

St. John's wort is reported to relieve anxiety and tension and to act as an antidepressant. It was once thought that hypericin interfered with the body's production of a depression-related chemical called monoamine oxidase (MAO), but recent research has shed doubt on this claim. Research now is focusing on other constituents, such as hyperforin and flavonoids.

St. John's wort has also been studied for the treatment of other emotional disorders such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), menopausal mood swings, and premenstrual syndrome. In laboratory studies, it has shown some effectiveness for lessening the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and for reducing the craving for alcohol in addicted animals. It is believed that chemicals in St. John's wort may act like other chemicals that are associated with relieving emotional conditions.

St. John's wort is useful for pelvic pain and cramping. According to the 1983 British Pharmacopoeia, St. John's wort is specifically indicated for "menopausal neuroses": Many women who experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional disturbances during menopause may benefit from this herb's use.

The National Cancer Institute has conducted several studies showing that St. John's wort has potential as a cancer-fighting drug. One study showed that mice injected with the feline leukemia virus were able to fight off the infection after just a single dose of St. John's wort.

Possible antiviral effects of St. John's wort are being investigated for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other viral illnesses. It is thought that hypericin, pseudohypericin, and other chemicals in St. John's wort may stick to the surfaces of viruses and keep them from binding to host cells. Another theory is that St. John's wort may contain chemicals that interfere with the production or release of viral cells. This antiviral activity is enhanced greatly by exposure to light. However, the doses needed for active antiviral effect from St. John's wort may be so high that unbearable side effects may limit its usefulness as an antiviral.

St. John's wort has also been used to treat hypothyroidism and a salve made with the extract can be used topically to treat bruises, burns, insect bites and scabies.

In addition, St. John's wort is often recommended to treat trigeminal neuralgia (sharp and convulsive pain all along the course of a nerve) and sciatica (any painful condition spreading from the hip downwards to the back of the thigh and adjoining areas), back pain, fibrositis (a condition distinguished by unceasing pain in the muscles and soft tissues adjacent to the joints, fatigue, and soreness at particular areas in the body), shingles (an ailment caused by the varicella-zoster virus), headaches as well as rheumatic pain. The herbal oil extracted from St. John's wort alleviates and cures burns, lesions, cuts, tenderness, and ulcers as well as soothes inflammation or tenderness.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) Side effects and cautions

Using any form of St. John's wort makes the skin more sensitive to light. Hence, it is advisable that people with fair complexion and using St. John's wort ought to keep away from exposure to powerful sunlight as well as all sources of ultraviolet (UV) light - for instance, tanning beds. In addition, such people should also keep away from specific foods, including red wine, yeast, cheese and pickled herring. Here is a word of caution for women using St. John's wort. This herb or medications prepared with it should never be used by pregnant women and nursing mothers.

When not to use St. John's Wort

The therapeutic properties of St. John's wort notwithstanding, using the herb may result in a number of side effects. In addition, this herb should not be used by people enduring certain conditions or women when they are pregnant or lactating. A number of instances are mentioned below wherein St. John's wort should not be used under any circumstances. Precisely speaking, use of the herb in the conditions mentioned below is strictly prohibited and if used may prove to be detrimental for the patient's health.

  • People taking any form of prescription anti-depressant, especially any of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, should never use St. John's wort. Taking any SSRIs and the herb concurrently will result in a severe drug interaction known as serotonin syndrome. It is essential to consult your physician beforehand in case you are already taking a prescription anti-depressant and also desire to use St. John's wort for treating other medical conditions, for instance insomnia or premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In addition, it is never advisable to do self-medication with St. John's wort, especially if you are already taking any prescription anti-depressant or SSRIs.
  • It is advisable never to take hypericum for treating bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) or if you are experiencing acute depression involving suicidal thoughts or tendencies. While a number of studies have advocates using a very high dosage of hypericum - about 1,800 mg or more daily, to effectively cure severe depression, most scientists are of the view that more extensive research is needed in this regard to substantiate the recommendations of these studies. As of now, the herb is only recommended for treating gentle to restrained cases of depression as well as a remedy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  • St. John's wort should never be used by women who are either pregnant or lactating. Thus far, scientists have not examined St. John's wort for teratogenicity. In other words, it is yet to be ascertained whether the use of the herb by pregnant women caused any harm to the fetus or still unborn child. However, St. John's wort has been traditionally used as a tonic for the uterus as well as a gentle stimulant for the uterus. It may be mentioned here that so far at least one research involving animals in laboratory has confirmed that St. John's wort possesses the property to stimulate the uterus.
  • Children under the age of 12 years should never be given any medical preparation with St. John's wort. It is advisable not to even apply the herb externally on them. For instance, since long people have been effectively using St. John's wort to treat babies having colic (a condition wherein the baby experiences bouts of abdominal pain). The treatment of colicky babies involved soaking the affected babies in a bathtub containing warm water with flowers and leaves of St. John's wort or the liquid extract from the herb. It may be noted that St. John's wort possesses anti-spasmodic, tranquilizing and analgesic properties which are effective in curing colic. Taking a bath with warm water containing a liquid extract of St. John's wort is believed to be an exceptional remedy for nervousness, restiveness as well as stomach cramps.
  • People enduring substance abuse problems or are addicted to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines or crack should never use St. John's wort under any circumstance. Taking St. John's wort concurrently with any of the above mentioned substances will result in a severe drug interaction. This is despite a number of unreliable reports that St. John's wort is a useful medication for detoxification or getting our body rid of toxins. Before you use the herb as a ‘detox' medication, it is essential that you consult your physician or a counsellor to find if St. John's wort is suitable for your conditions. You may, however, consider taking St. John's wort during the recuperation stage with a view to treat anxiety and insomnia related to your conditions.

Benefits Of St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) For Health
St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) Picture

When to use St. John's Wort with caution

Although it is a very useful herb that is effective in treating a number of conditions, St. John's wort should be used with extreme caution. Below are a few instances to help you use St. John's herb with prudence.

  • People enduring chronic heart, kidney or liver ailments should necessarily use St. John's wort only under the supervision of a competent and practiced medical practitioner. The same applies for people who have been diagnosed with ailments of the connective tissues like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus (an uncommon type of tuberculosis of the skin.) People enduring chronic diseases of different organs usually experience a severe weakening of the body's resistance system and, hence, they are often unable to successfully absorb and digest several medications, including bio-medicines. In fact, it has been found that people suffering from heart, kidney and liver ailments are particularly vulnerable to severe side effects caused by the medications administered to them. They experience side effects even when they take a mild herbal medication like St. John's wort. It may be noted here that in the instance of connective tissue diseases like photosensitivity, systemic lupus and acute skin reactions owing to sunlight are the real symptoms of the ailment. Here is a word of caution: never engage in self-medication with St. John's wort, an herb known for its photosensitizing properties. This may result in the worsening of the symptoms experienced by the patients.
  • People suffering from chronic high blood pressure or hypertension should always use St. John's wort with utmost concern and always under the supervision of a competent and qualified medical practitioner.
  • If you have cancer, hepatitis, AIDS or it has been detected that you have HIV or tuberculosis, hypericum enclosed in St. John's wort may be used to treat the conditions. However, the underlying fact remains that this substance should only be used under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. Several studies conducted with St. John's wort have established that the herb possesses anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-viral as well as immune-enhancing characteristics. Consequently, it is believed that St. John's herb has immense remedial virtues and has the potential to control and treat the medical conditions mentioned above. However, scientists are of the view that more extensive researches need to be undertaken on this subject since clinical trials on humans so far have either been restricted or controlled strictly. In effect, people enduring any of these ailments ought to carry on with the usual treatment procedures and only use St. John's wort as an encouraging or collateral treatment essentially under the advice and supervision of a qualified medical practitioner.
While it is not advisable to use St. John's wort in children below the age of 12 years, even older people using this herb should do so only on the advice and under the supervision of a competent medical practitioner. Never ever attempt to do self-medication with St. John's wort as the consequences are likely to be detrimental for your condition and overall health.