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St John’s Wort is a safe and efficient treatment for depression and anxiety

St John's Wort for Depression and anxiety treatment

A meta –analysis of 27 studies, involving 3,126 subjects diagnosed with depression, has revealed that St. John’s Wort extract is equally effective to antidepressants, and have superior safety for treating depression.


Patients taking the extract had the same clinical response if compared to patients medicated with anti- depressants/anxiety pills, they also had lower rate of adverse events and had fewer withdraws due to adverse events.

It is important to know that antidepressants and anxiety medications are a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) . These are believed to regulated the production of serotonin in the body, which is a monoamine neurotransmitter primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), blood platelets, and the central nervous system.

Many studies propose that low serotonin function may compromise mechanisms involved in maintaining recovery from depression, rather than having a primary effect to lower mood in all vulnerable people. The deregulation of serotonin has been linked in some studies with Physiological Function and behaviour. This is the reason is why some defend the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors drugs (SSRIs) as a way to treat depression and anxiety. However, the many possible side effects of withdrawing from antidepressants, hinders the process of eventually choosing to stop taking these medications.

The most common SSRI’S used to treat depression/anxiety are Fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram( lexapro), and fluvoxamine

How does St John’s wort treat depression and anxiety?

A recent paper explained that just like SSRI drugs, St. John’s wort helps to treat mild to moderate depression by inhibiting the uptake of:

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1) Serotonin, which has a general effect on behavior by modulating the tone of nervous system activity, an observation that comes from studies of the firing rate of serotonergic soma in raphe nuclei

2)Dopamine - a chemical released in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter. It affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure and pain. Dopamine has many pathways, and plays a role in reward-motivated behaviour. This premise was confirmed in the analysis of 473 preschool-aged children and their mothers, in which it was found that there is an association between the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) and symptoms of depression and anxiety indexed using interview and parent report methods.

3) Glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter has been show that if an individual is an stressful environment its release is enhanced. Other studies suggest that glutamate transmission is abnormally regulated in a number of limbic/cortical areas in the brains of depressed individuals.

4) GABA, which are interneurons that were found to regulate emotional responses to potentially threatening stimuli and play key parts in the acquisition, storage and extinction of fear.

It also down regulates the nerve cells release of chemical substances into a synapse, which is a gap at the end of a neuron, during the transmission of an impulse between neurons, mimicking the effect of antidepressants.

While there are arguments in the scientific community advocating for the use of St John’s Wort, to treat depression and anxiety biomarkers. It is important to note that, all herbal remedies need to be prescribed by a professional herbalist in order to pinpoint the interaction that this herb may have with other medications.