St. John's wort is a plant-derived herbal remedy -- a phytomedicine -- that is believed to act as a natural remedy for mild depression. St. John's wort contains hypericin and hyperfornin, which play a role in the flower's pharmacological benefits. The way the remedy works is by inhibiting the body's reuptake of certain chemicals in the brain -- serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Raising the levels of these biochemicals can help improve mood. Commonly prescribed antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) target the same neurotransmitters.
St. John's wort is taken as an extract, often in teas and tablets. While it is thought to have fewer side effects than antidepressants, it's not side effect free. For example, its side effects include dizziness, dry mouth and upset stomach. And, it can interact with certain prescription medications such as birth control pills and anticoagulants. Therefore, be sure to talk to your health care provider before adding St. John's wort to your daily regimen.