You've probably heard about the herb St.-John's-wort since it is touted in the media as a cure for depression. In some European countries, St.-John's-wort is more popular than many newer antidepressants and is covered by health insurance. In some studies, the herb has proven to be as effective as tricyclic antidepressants. Unfortunately, these were not well-controlled studies. Many researchers are skeptical because the placebo may have had a strong effect in this research. In the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health is conducting the first controlled studies of St.-John's-wort. The herb appears to have only minor side effects, but no one knows if there are long-term side effects.

St.-John's-Wort

The herb is sold in health food stores as a liquid extract or in capsules that contain the crushed flowers and leaves of the plant.

How it works. Hypericin, believed to be the active ingredient in St.-John's-wort, apparently enhances serotonin activity in the brain and may also have the properties of other antidepressants.

Who should not take it. If you are currently on any medications, or you have taken any medications in the past 5 weeks, you should not take St.-John's-wort and should talk with your doctor. St.-John's-wort can interact with many medications, including those used to treat depression. Remember, moderate and severe depression isn't something you should try to self-treat. Before trying this or any other remedy, talk with your doctor.

Who should not take it. If you are currently on any medications, or you have taken any medications in the past 5 weeks, you should not take St.-John's-wort and should talk with your doctor. St.-John's-wort can interact with many medications, including those used to treat depression. Remember, moderate and severe depression isn't something you should try to self-treat. Before trying this or any other remedy, talk with your doctor.