St. John's Wort: Basics

Usage & Safety

St. John's Wort is generally considered safe to take. As with any natural supplement, however, it is best to consult your doctor prior to starting on St. John's Wort if you are pregnant, nursing, have allergies (especially to plants), or are taking certain prescription medications (especially if those drugs are metabolized by the same liver enzymes the breakdown St. John's Wort). If you are on medications for treatment of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or seizures, please consult with your physician prior to starting St. John's Wort.

St. John's Wort is indicated for the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. Recent research suggests that St. John's Wort extract with high amounts of hyperforin may also be effective for treatment of severe depression. Individuals who have severe depression or thoughts of suicide should seek professional medical treatment as soon as possible.

The standard recommended dose of St. John's Wort extract is 900mg daily (300mg 3x per day). Doses of up to 1800mg daily have been shown to be safe and effective in clinical research, and such higher doses may be necessary for some people. On the low end, smaller doses of just 300-600mg daily may be effective if you're small or sensitive. For best results, take St. John's Wort extract standardized to contain at least 3% hyperforin.

Although St. John's Wort can be taken with or without food, it's best to take with meals in order to reduce the possibility of stomach upset.

St. John's Wort does not work immediately and must be taken regularly (i.e. every day). For most people, St. John's Wort becomes effective after 3-4 weeks. In some cases, however, it may take up to 6-8 weeks to begin working. Some people actually feel worse or a little "off" when they first start taking St. John's Wort; this is normal and does not mean that it will not work for you.

In general, St. John's Wort is safe and well-tolerated. Since St. John's Wort is natural, its side effects are usually mild and transient compared to prescription antidepressants drugs. Severe side effects are extremely rare. The most common possible side effects associated with St. John's Wort are headaches, fatigue, vivid or unusual dreams, temporary anxiety (during the first few weeks) and increased sensitivity to sunlight.
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