Hypericum Perforatum For Depression

Hypericum perforatum has a long history of use in treating mental disorders.

Hypericum perforatum is the Latin name for what is more commonly known as Saint-John’s-wort, Klamath weed and goat weed. The first recorded use of Hypericum perforatum was in ancient Greece. The plant was first introduced to the United States in 1696 because of its medicinal, ornamental and “magical” properties. Saint-John’s-wort has been used for centuries in treating depression and other mental disorders, nerve pain, malaria, wounds, burns and insect bites, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).


Hypericum perforatum is a perennial herb that grows in many parts of the world. It is found in eastern North America and on the Pacific coast. The plant has a woody, branched root and puts out runners from the base. It has yellow flowers that appear from June to September. The tops and flowers of the plant are used for medicinal purposes, one of which is the treatment of depression.

Active Compounds

Hypericin and pseudohypericin are the active compounds found in Hypericum perforatum that are thought to have antidepressive properties. Xanthones and flavonoids are other constituents that may add to the medicinal qualities of Hypericum perforatum. Holistic Online reports Hypericum perforatum lowers the levels of cortisol and improves gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity, a tranquilizer that occurs naturally in the brain.

Scientific Evidence

NCCAM states “there is some scientific evidence that St. John’s-wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression.” A study funded by Schwabe Pharmaceuticals in Germany found that a specific extract of Hypericum perforatum was safe and more effective than a placebo in treating mild to moderate major depression. NCCAM cites its own funded research that the herb is “no more effective in treating major depression of moderate severity than a placebo.”

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Hypericum perforatum is used in the form of capsules, tinctures, homeopathic remedies and teas. The typical dose is 300 mg three times per day with meals. Check with your health practitioner before taking with other herbs, supplements or prescriptions. Hypericum perforatum is well tolerated; however, it may conflict with antidepressant drugs. It may also interfere or conflict with warfarin, digoxin, oral contraceptives and drugs used to treat HIV and cancer, according to NCCAM. It is not to be used for serious depression.

Side Effects

Anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache or sexual dysfunction are possible side effects. Increased sensitivity to sunlight is also possible, so people with fair skin should avoid strong sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet exposure to reduce the possibility of blistering, dermatitis and burning of the skin.