Public awareness about depression is increasing, and at the same time, the popularity of St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), an herbal product that many people use to self-treat depression and anxiety, has also risen. However, using St. John's Wort has risks, and the medical community needs to be sure patients are aware of all aspects of this drug when dealing with the treatment of depression.
Careful monitoring by a medical professional is essential in maintaining a patient's safety through the course of treatment for depression. Without adequate treatment, the severity of depression can increase and lead a patient to attempt suicide. Because of St John's Wort popularity, patients need to know the risks involved in using St. John's Wort when they receive a diagnosis of depression.
Advertisers promote St. John's Wort as a “natural” herbal alternative, so people do not always realize it is also a drug. Research shows that St. John's Wort can interact with other drugs, including antidepressants, birth control pills, anti-rejecting medicines for transplant patients, medicines used in controlling HIV, anticancer medicines, blood thinners, and other heart medications (NCCAM). People who take any of these types of drugs should not use St. John's Wort, since it can cause them to be ineffective or even cause life-threatening results.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies St. John’s Wort as a nutritional supplement, so it is not subject to testing and regulation like other drugs (Cupp 1999). Without regulation, there is no way for patients to know the reliability of the quality of the product they consume or to accurately adjust the dose (Cupp 1999).
Common side effects of St. John's Wort are often not life threatening, but could be uncomfortable for patients, including dry mouth, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, light sensitivity, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction (FDA, NCCAM, MAYO). Safety for the baby while...