A herb used for centuries to treat depression works just as well as some commonly prescribed antidepressants. A new review found that St. John’s wort is effective for treating major depression, especially in Germany, where it seems to work particularly well, and other countries where doctors prescribe it regularly to treat mild symptoms of depression.
Experts evaluated 29 studies from various countries that included almost 5,500 patients suffering from major depression. The randomized, double-blind studies compared patients treated with St. John's wort to those treated with either placebo or tri-/tetracyclic antidepressants, such as Remeron, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.
The reviewers found that St. John's wort was more effective than placebo and similarly effective as standard antidepressants in treating major depression.
St. John’s wort, an extract of the plant Hypericum perforatum L., contains at least seven groups of active components and scientists aren’t sure exactly which ones are effective. The reviewers also noted that the amounts of hypericum fluctuate in various brands of St. John’s wort and some may not contain optimum amounts.
“There is no patent protection on herbs; therefore, more or less anyone can market hypericum extracts,” said lead reviewer Klaus Linde of the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at Technical University in Munich.
The St. John’s wort products used in the studies were high-quality products. Daily dosages ranged from 500 to 1,200 milligrams.
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