A review article published in 2001 identified 8 clinical studies in which St. John’s wort was more effective than placebo in treating mild to moderate depression. “The absolute increased response rate with the use of St. John’s wort ranged from 23% to 55% higher than with placebo, but ranged from 6% to 18% lower compared with tricyclic antidepressants.”
Today, tricyclic antidepressants are not first line therapy for depression, more effective drugs are available. However, St. John’s wort still has a place in therapy, particularly in people who are resistant to taking prescription drugs. In many cases, according to my wife who is a practicing psychologist, many people who refuse to treat their depression with prescription drugs will try St. John’s wort ? often with improvement that lets them experience greater benefit from psychological counseling.
One caveat. Different brands of St. John’s wort might not contain what is printed on the label. For example, ConsumerLab reported that 3 of 14 products tested were contaminated. “Another offered less than one-quarter of the standard dose. Still two others didn’t even disclose what part of the herb the products contained ? an FDA labeling requirement.” Before taking St. John’s wort have a pharmacist or other healthcare professional check to be sure it will not interact adversely with other drugs being taken.
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.