Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Info About St. John's Wort

Today I would like to pass along some information about St. John's Wort.  Right up front, you need to know that I have the blessing of my doctor to use this supplement instead of the SSRIs I have been taking for ALONG time. My reasons for wanting to discontinue taking SSRIs are numerous but a few of them are: water retention and weight gain. These two side effects have resulted in taking OTHER medications to reduce water retention and reduce my cholesterol which is high because I've gained weight (see a pattern here?). And lead to their own set of side effects which then require more medication to alleviate!

 The biggest problem I face when not taking SSRIs is severe leg, arm and chest cramping, low mood, and anxiety. More on leg cramp remedies in another post because today I would like to focus on St. John's Wort. Much of this information is summarized from  here and here.

 What is St. John’s Wort?
St. John's wort is a plant with yellow flowers that has been used as a treatment for depression and anxiety through the active ingredient Hypericum perforatum. The plant gets its name because it is often in full bloom around June 24, the day traditionally celebrated as the birthday of John the Baptist. Both the flowers and leaves are used as medicine. It is considered a weed in most of the United States. St. John's wort has been used as a medicine dating back to ancient Greece. St. John's wort also has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

St. John' s wort has been studied extensively as a treatment for depression. Most studies show that St. John's wort may help treat mild-to-moderate depression, and has fewer side effects than most other prescription antidepressants.

 St. John’s Wort and MAJOR DEPRESSION
DO NOT treat severe depression with St. John’s wort – If you are not under medical supervision for severe depression, call your doctor NOW! If depression is not adequately treated, it can become severe and, in some cases, may be associated with suicide. Consult a health care provider if you or someone you care about may be experiencing depression.

Treating Mild Depression
There is scientific evidence that St. John's wort is useful for milder forms of depression. Before taking St. John’s wort, you need to consult your doctor, especially if you are taking any type of prescription medication -- St. John's wort interacts with certain drugs, and these interactions can limit the effectiveness of some prescription medicines. Always let your health care

How Does St. John’s Wort Work?
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) contains many chemical compounds. Some are believed to be the active ingredients that produce the herb's effects, including the compounds hypericin and hyperforin. Preliminary studies suggest that St. John's wort might work by preventing nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing the chemical messenger serotonin, or by reducing levels of a protein involved in the body's immune system functioning (much like SSRIs).

St. John's wort has been used over the centuries for mental conditions, nerve pain, and a wide variety of other health conditions. Today, St. John's wort is used for anxiety, mild to moderate depression, and sleep disorders.  (These three things are what I take St. John’s Wort for: anxiety, low mood, and sleep problems).

In the United States, St. John's wort products are sold as:

·       Capsules and tablets

·       Teas—the dried herb is added to boiling water and steeped

·       Liquid extracts—specific types of chemicals are removed from the herb, leaving the desired chemicals in a concentrated form.

About Depression
Depression is a medical condition that affects nearly 21 million American adults each year. Mood, thoughts, physical health, and behavior all may be affected.

Symptoms of depression commonly include:

·       Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

·       Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

·       Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

·       Restlessness or irritability

·       Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that the person once enjoyed

·       Fatigue and decreased energy

·       Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and/or making decisions Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

·       Overeating, or appetite loss

·       Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

·       Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment.

Depression comes in several forms and its symptoms and severity can vary from person to person. For example:

 Major Depression
(also called major depressive disorder), people experience symptoms that interfere with their ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and take pleasure in activities they once enjoyed. Symptoms last for at least 2 weeks but frequently last for several months or longer.

(also called dysthymic disorder), a less severe, but more chronic form of depression, people experience symptoms that are not as disabling but keep them from functioning well or feeling good. Symptoms last at least 2 years. Many people with dysthymia also have episodes of major depression. In bipolar disorder (also called manic–depressive illness), people have periods of depressive symptoms that alternate or may co-exist with periods of mania. Symptoms of mania include abnormally high levels of excitement and energy, racing thoughts, and behavior that is impulsive and inappropriate.

Minor Depression
In addition, milder forms of depression exist that fall into the category of minor depression. In minor depression, people experience the same symptoms as major depression, but they are fewer in number and are less disabling. Symptoms last at least 6 months but less than 2 years continuously.

What the Science Says About St. John's Wort for Depression
St. John's wort may have only minimal beneficial effects on major depression. However, the analysis also found that St. John's wort may benefit people with minor depression; these benefits may be similar to those from standard antidepressants. Overall, St. John's wort appeared to produce fewer side effects than some standard antidepressants.

Side Effects and Risks
The most common side effects of St. John's wort include dry mouth, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and fatigue. Taking St. John's wort can limit the effectiveness of some prescription medicines, including: Antidepressant medicines; Birth control pills; Cyclosporine, a medicine that helps prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs; Digoxin, a medicine used to strengthen heart muscle contractions; Indinavir and other medicines used to control HIV infection; Irinotecan and other anticancer medicines; Warfarin and related medicines used to thin the blood (known as anticoagulants). When combined with certain antidepressants, St. John's wort also may increase side effects such as nausea, anxiety, headache, and confusion.

Herbal Products: Issues To Consider
Herbal products such as St. John's wort are classified as dietary supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The strength and quality of herbal products are often unpredictable. Products can differ in content not only from brand to brand, but from batch to batch. Information on labels may be misleading or inaccurate.

How to Take It
You should not take St. John’s Wort without consulting your doctor. Please consultthis website for more information.

 For adults:

·       Dry herb (in capsules or tablets):
The usual dose for mild depression and mood disorders is 300 mg (standardized to 0.3% hypericin extract), 3 times per day, with meals. St. John's wort is available in time-release capsules.

·       Liquid
St. John' s Wort is also available as a liquid extract or a tea. Ask your doctor to help you find the right dose.

It may take 3 - 4 weeks to feel any effects from St. John's wort.

Don' t stop taking St. John' s wort all at once, because that may cause unpleasant side effects. Gradually lower the dose before stopping.

Again, you should see a doctor to make sure you have the right diagnosis before taking St. John's wort. Your doctor can help you determine the right dose and make sure you are not taking any other medications that might interact with St. John's wort.

Side effects from St. John's wort are generally mild and include stomach upset, hives or other skin rashes, fatigue, restlessness, headache, dry mouth, and feelings of dizziness or mental confusion. St. John's wort can also make the skin overly sensitive to sunlight, called photodermatitis. If you have light skin and are taking St. John's wort, wear long sleeves and a hat when in the sun, and use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 or higher. Avoid sunlamps, tanning booths, and tanning beds.

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