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St. Johns Wort Shown to be as Good as Standard Drugs for Depression

A review published in the October 2008 edition of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that St. Johns Wort extract is effective in reducing symptoms of major depression.

St. Johns Wort is a plant that has been used for centuries to relieve anxiety, depression, and nerve pain. The yellow flowers of the plant have traditionally been used in tea or to make tablets containing extracts from the plant.

For the review, scientists from the Technical University of Munich and the University Medical Center in Freiburg analyzed data from 29 trials involving 5,489 patients with symptoms of major depression.

All of the studies analyzed by the German researchers used a rating system called the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression in order to determine the level of depression for participants.

The researchers characterized major depression as a depressed mood or loss of interest in pleasurable activities for a period of at least 2 weeks.

The data showed that in the nine largest trials reviewed, St. Johns Wort was 28 percent more effective in reducing major depression symptoms than a placebo. In the nine smallest trials reviewed the plant was 87 percent more effective.

The researchers also compared St. Johns Wort to standard anti-depressants and found no difference in effectiveness.

Overall, the review concluded that St. Johns Wort was superior to a placebo in reducing symptoms of major depression and as effective as regular antidepressants with fewer side effects.

It is important to note that St. Johns Wort has been shown to limit the effectiveness of other medication like anti-depressants, birth control pills and blood thinners. When combined with an anti-depressant, St. John's wort may also increase side effects like nausea, anxiety and headache.

There are a number of St. John’s Wort products and supplements on the market and they vary considerably. It is important to do your homework and consult a physician before deciding if St. John's Wort is right for you.
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