Should You Use St. John’s Wort for Anxiety?

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

While St. John's wort is a safe, natural supplement you can use to try to curb anxiety problems, it may not be terribly effective. When your hard-earned money is at stake, knowledge is power. And medical studies are all that we have to measure a natural supplement's effectiveness. But let's look at this famous herb's promise and effect in several studies on anxiety.(Note: This week, Dr. Juan will be focusing on a serious disorder that affects a lot of people: anxiety. Here’s part two of his intriguing three-part series)

While St. John’s wort is a safe, natural supplement you can use to try to curb anxiety problems, it may not be terribly effective. When your hard-earned money is at stake, knowledge is power. And medical studies are all that we have to measure a natural supplement’s effectiveness. But let’s look at this famous herb’s promise and effect in several studies on anxiety.

St. John’s wort comes from the flowering tops of a perennial shrub. It is widely used in Germany for the treatment of depression, as well as anxiety and insomnia.

The exact mechanism by which St. John’s wort exerts its anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects is unknown. It can inhibit the flow of several neurotransmitters (including serotonin) that are involved with mood disorders.

Here is a look at some studies to see if it can work for you:

— Researchers used 450 mg twice a day for three months in 13 people with obsessive compulsive disorder. There was significant improvement in obsessive compulsive scores — with effects seen as early as the first week on
treatment. Side effects: minor diarrhea and restless sleep.

— Researchers used 600 mg a day for six weeks in 151 people with sleep problems. Significant reduction in anxiety was seen in the St. John’s wort-treated group. Side effects included mild to moderate stomach pain, headache, bronchitis, arthritis, irregular heartbeat, bladder infection, numbness, and tingling sensation.

— In 500 depressed patients with anxiety, researchers tested 500 mg of valerian and 600 mg a day of St. John’s wort or 1,000 mg of valerian and 600 mg of St. John’s wort. Both groups had significant decreases in anxiety, with the higher dose leading to better results. Side effects included insomnia, bad dreams, allergies and overall unease.

— In 40 people with social phobia, researchers used 600 to 1,800 mg of St. John’s wort a day or placebo. There was no difference between the two on anxiety.

— In 60 people with obsessive compulsive disorder, 600-1,800 mg of the herb did not do any better than placebo.

— Researchers used St John’s wort (1.8 grams three times a day) plus kava (2.6 grams three times a day) on 28 people depressed with anxiety. Over four weeks, the combination did not show anti-anxiety effects.

Except for minor mild stomach upset, rash, tiredness and restlessness, St John’s wort is a relatively safe herb. But unfortunately, as it stands, there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of St John’s wort in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

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