St. John’s Wort

Overview

St John's wort
St. John’s Wort is one of the most commonly used herbal medicine in the United States. It is also called goatweed, Tipton’s weed, and Klamath weed.
It belongs to the plant species Hypericum Perforatum.

St. John’s Wort can be found in sub tropical and temperate climates of Europe, North America, China, Russia, Turkey, and other countries. This plant prefers to grow on sandy, dry soils, with full sun, and can often be found in roadsides, meadows, waste areas, dry land, and even in cracks of sidewalks.

St. John’s Wort is considered to be a feel-good plant and is mostly used to reduce mood disorders. The name is derived from the day of the year when the plant’s flowers bloom. They bloom for the first time in a year during John the Baptist’s birthday-on June 24, thus the name, St. John. The flowers come out during the Summer Solstice-which is the longest day of the year. Wort means plant in Old English.

The plant has been used throughout history as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments. It was considered to be a magical plant by many. Greeks and Romans used the plant for snake bites, ulcers, wounds, and melancholy. Early Christians regard it as a holy plant, with the five petals on the flowers resembling a halo, and the red liquid that comes out once you pick it symbolizes the blood of St. John. They used to wrap it around wreaths and hang it on their front doors to ward off evil spirits. St. John’s Wort was also believed to strip witches of their evil powers.

Methods of Use

St. John’s Wort is available in tablet, capsule or in liquid form. The recommended dosage is 300 mg twice a day. There are also oils, oil based ointments and lotions. Dried herb can also be drunk as tea. Some people also use the herb by itself for smoking or infuse it with other herbs.

Effects

The effects of taking St. John’s Wort are not instant. You have to take the tablets for at least five weeks before you can truly feel the effects of the herb. Also, the herb will not actually make you feel euphoric since it will normalize your mood.

People who drink the herb as tea or smoke it do report feeling mentally calmer after, but for smoking, it would take at least 1 or two bowls a day for two weeks to feel the true effects of the herb.

Medicinal Benefits

St. John’s Wort’s main use is in alleviating mood disorders and has highly been prescribed for mild depression. In Germany, it is the number one prescribed medicinal herb for mood disorders. The most potent chemicals in the plant are Hyperforin and Hypericin. Hyperforin is said to be the main chemical in St. John’s Wort that’s responsible for its antidepressant properties. Hypericin is said to contain antibacterial and antiviral properties and increases the level of dopamine in your brain, making you feel happier.

Taking St. John’s Wort can also help in heart palpitations, menopause, people with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety problems, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, hepatitis C, and are being studied as potential medicine for HIV and cancer.

The ointments can also be used for wounds, bruises and scraps, inflammations, first degree burns, and bug bites.

Side Effects

St. John’s Wort may be a natural herb but it does have quite a few side effects. Before you start using it, consult your doctor first if you are taking medications that can negatively interact with St. John’s Wort. Avoid taking it with alcohol, allergy drugs, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, anti-depressant medicines, and a host of other drugs.

The most common side effects are dizziness, nausea, digestive problems, tiredness, dry mouth, and sun sensitivity. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, those who are trying to conceive and breastfeeding mothers.

Taking a large amount of St. John’s Wort has also been associated with Serotonin Syndrome. Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that is associated with mood, hunger, and other bodily functions. The symptoms of the syndrome include hallucinations, nausea, loss of muscle coordination, confusion, and sweating.

Legality

St. John’s Wort is uncontrolled in the U.S., meaning the plant can be cultivated and sold legally without a license or prescription. However, if it is distributed as a supplement, it should adhere to US supplement laws and the FDA.

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