St. John's Wort

St. John's wort is a perennial with yellow flowers containing hypericin, a pigment that has therapeutic properties. It was traditionally used to drive off evil spirits, and today is most commonly used as a natural remedy for the demons of mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

Although it is still a bit of a mystery, scientists think St. John's wort somehow increases serotonin levels in the brain and thereby affects one's mood. Some studies have shown this herb is as effective as some conventional antidepressant medications, with a bonus that it does not cause unpleasant side effects like sexual dysfunction. St. John's wort can also improve depression-related conditions like PMS (premenstrual syndrome), SAD (seasonal affective disorder) fibromyalgia and excessive fatigue.

It seems St. John's wort may have some anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, as well. It has shown some success at treating influenza, herpes simplex, the Epstein-Barr virus and may even play a role in combating the AIDS virus. As a topical salve, this herb can soothe the burning and itching of hemorrhoids and promote the healing of minor wounds and burns.

Note it can take several weeks for St. John's wort to build up in your system and become effective, so be patient with this herb. Studies have shown that St. John's wort causes photosensitivity in animals, and while it seems safe for humans, it is wise to be wary of the sun when taking this herb. Women who are pregnant, lactating or trying to conceive should avoid taking St. John's wort supplements.

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