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St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a shrub-like perennial plant with bright yellow flowers that ooze a bright red liquid when squeezed. The plant is harvested and dried quickly to preserve the properties of the red oil. Although it is still not fully understood how St. John's Wort works in the body, the active ingredients are thought to be the pigment hypericin and hyperforin.
One possible mechanism for the effectiveness of St. John's Wort is its ability increase the levels of neurotransmitters serotonin, norephinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Topically, the herb helps fight bacteria and decrease inflammation.
Many studies have found St. John's Wort to be effective in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression, anxiety and stress. The herb helps boost feel-good brain chemicals that regulate mood, appetite, sleep, and other vital functions.
St. John's Wort may also help treat some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and fibromyalgia. Topically, St. John's Wort soothes minor skin wounds and hemorrhoids.
Recommended dosage for depression, anxiety, stress, PMS or fibromyalgia: 300mg three times daily; or 450mg twice daily. St. John's Wort is available in tablet, capsule, liquid, tea, and topical forms, and should be taken with food. Look for formulas standardized to contain at least 0.3% hypericin and 3.0% hyperforin. It may take 4-6 weeks for noticeable improvement in symptoms. St. John's Wort may not be effective for every individual.
Sensitivity to the sun, gastrointestinal distress, fatigue, dry mouth, and dizziness may occur. Consult your physician before using this or any dietary supplement, especially if you are using prescription medications or are suffering from any disease. People using MAO inhibitors should not use St. John's Wort, as a life-threatening reaction may occur. Do not combine this supplement with SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs, HIV medications, or Neoral. St. John's Wort may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Pregnant women or nursing mothers should consult a physician before using this supplement.