St.-John's-Wort, that is, Hypericum perforatum, is a woody, invasively spreading perennial that reaches no more than two feet in height. Its leaves have glands that produce a red oil. Its star-shaped yellow flowers also contain this oil and turn red when pinched. It smells like turpentine. The leaves and flower tops are harvested as the plant blooms. Extensive research has proven that SJW is antiviral, antidepressive, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory.
SJW contains "Hypericin," which appears to interfere with the activity of a chemical in the body known as monoamine oxidase (MAO), thereby making SJW an "MAO-inhibitor." MAO-inhibitors are an important class of antidepressants. SJW has been shown to provide significant relief from depression, more normal sleep patterns, increased appetite and interest in life and greater feelings of self-worth.
A large number of commercial suppliers have expanded their products to include a "feel-good" line of herbals using St.-John's-Wort. They come in a very wide array of dosages and prices and with limited information on the label. SJW is a very powerful naturally-occurring antidepressant. As an MAO-inhibitor, there ARE possibly dangerous food and drug interactions that are not adequately identified on the packaging of this substance. More importantly, SJW, like prescription antidepressants, takes up to three months to build up a sufficient amount in the body to evidence any benefits. Until then, and even then, side effects can negate its effectiveness, most notably headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, or clammy skin. (I CAN tell you that other anti-depressants my son has taken in conjunction with his ADHD and manic depression have generally had negative effects on his eating and sleeping habits and have caused frequent, sometimes constant headaches and frequent upset stomach.)
Please review the newsgroup postings regarding SJW that are available at Deja.com . This subject has been reviewed quite extensively there.
According to book, The Healing Herbs, by Michael Castleman, my source for most of this data, when taking St.-John's-Wort, it is CRUCIAL that one AVOID the following, which are known to interact negatively with it: amphetamines, narcotics, the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine, diet pills, asthma inhalants, nasal decongestants, or cold or hay fever medications. Also DO NOT consume beer, wine, coffee, salami, yogurt, chocolate, fava beans, or smoked or pickled products. DO NOT use a prescription MAO-inhibitor at the same time as St.-John's-Wort. SJW should also NOT be taken if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have hypertension. SJW can also cause photosensitization in fair-skinned individuals, so exposure to the sun should be minimized. It should NOT be given to children under 2yo, under any circumstances, and for individuals over 65yo; they should start with very low-strength dosages.
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