AutismMelatoninSt. John's Wort

First report: St. John’s Wort for autism

It’s just a report on 3 patients, but it’s important because some people with autism are already taking St. John’s wort.

First, the details.

  • 3 male patients with autistic disorder participated.
  • In each patient, their eye contact and expressive language were inadequate for their developmental level.
  • None of these patients tolerated or responded to other psychopharmacologic treatments (methylphenidate [Ritalin], clonidine [Catapres], or desipramine [Norpramin, Pertofrane]).

And, the results.

  • There was slight improvement with St John’s Wort in parent and mentor ratings based on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC), irritability, stereotypy, and inappropriate speech.
    • ABC is a 58-item rating scale that measures the effects of drug treatment in individuals in residential facilities.
  • There was no improvement in healthcare professionals’ ratings (Psychiatric Rating Scale Autism, Anger and Speech Deviance factors; Global Assessment Scale; Clinical Global Impressions efficacy).

The bottom line?
A survey of 417 families in the Autism Society of Ohio in 2003 revealed that 46% were using some form of psychotropic agent (including St. John’s wort and melatonin), whereas 12% were using an anti-epilepsy drug, and 10% took an OTC autism preparation.

So, the findings in these 3 patients should be of interest (but probably not encouraging) to these families and healthcare professionals who care for patients with autism.

4/2/09 20:26 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.