How to Use St John's Wort

Four Methods:Treating Depression with St. John's WortTaking St. John's Wort SafelyMaking St. John's Wort remediesTreating Other Conditions with St John's Wort

St. John's wort is a plant with yellow flowers that are used to prepare teas, pills, salves, or balms which can be used to treat any number of conditions, including mental disorders, nerve pain, and malaria. It can also be used as a sedative, as well as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites. Today it is most commonly used to treat depression.

Method 1
Treating Depression with St. John's Wort

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    Read about taking St John's wort for depression. Depression is the primary reason people use St. John's wort. Research the value of using St. John's wort as an anti-depressant to decide if this is a treatment option for you. There is some scientific evidence that St. John's wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression, but it is not effective for severe depression.[1] If you have other mental health disorders (e.g. bipolar disorder) in addition to depression, taking St. John's wort can cause psychosis (i.e. hallucinations, confused thinking, false beliefs and delusions).[2]
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    Take the proper dose. Take 300 mg, three times a day with a meal. Check the label of your capsule or tablet. It should be standardized to contain 0.3% hyperycin extract. Hyperycin is the active ingredient in St. John's wort that works as an antidepressant. It will take three to six weeks before you feel any effect. If you decide to stop taking St. John's wort, gradually wean yourself off. You may experience some side effects if you stop the treatment overnight.[3]
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    Use a capsule or tablet formulation. It is important that you know exactly how much St. John's wort you are getting. Taking the herb in a capsule or table form will guarantee that you are getting the recommended dosage. Ingesting St. John's wort as a tea or eating the flowers of the plant should not be done to treat depression. There is no way to know how much St. John's wort you are actually getting using those methods.
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    Take care if you use it in conjunction with prescribed anti-depressants. If you take St. John's Wort in conjunction with other anti-depressants, your serotonin (i.e. brain chemical that anti-depressants target) levels may rise to an unsafe level. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include tremor, diarrhea, muscle stiffness, decrease in body temperature, death, and extreme confusion. It can also decrease the effectiveness of your prescribed medication.[4]
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    See a naturopath physician. A naturopath physician is trained in the use of natural medicines for improving health and wellness. These doctors likely have experience treating depression with St. John's wort. Visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website to find a licensed doctor.[5]
    • Also consider visiting an herbalist to help you with your depression. An herbalist is trained to stimulate your body's healing power through the use of herbs, diet, and lifestyle. You can find an herbalist by visiting the American Herbalists Guild website.[6]
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    Seek medical care to treat your depression. Let your doctor know that you are interested in using St. John's wort as part of your treatment.[7] Untreated depression can become severe and lead to suicide. Even if St. John's wort is not a good option for you, there are effective medications and treatments that can help you.

Method 2
Taking St. John's Wort Safely

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    Use brand name formulations. St John's wort is a dietary supplement so the quality of the product will vary. Dietary supplements are not regulated the same way as pharmaceutical drugs. For safety and quality purposes, only purchase St. John's wort from brands that have been inspected by independent commercial laboratories.[8] The following brands have met all the necessary quality criteria:[9]
    • CVS Pharmacy St. John's Wort
    • Kira® St. John's Wort Lichtwer Pharma Exclusive LI 160® Formula
    • Nature's Way Perika St. John's Wort
    • Rite Aid St. John's Wort
    • Vitamin Shoppe St. John's Wort Extract
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    Take the correct dosage. St John's wort is usually taken in liquid or capsule form. The most common dosage is 300 to 400 mg three times a day.[10] Always read the label to determine how many milligrams are in each capsule. Also read the list of additional ingredients. Dietary supplements are often packaged with other ingredients, and you want the purest form of St. John's wort.
    • Do not take different forms of St. John's wort at the same time. For example, do not take one dose as a liquid and your next dose as a capsule.[11]
    • Using the recommended brand will ensure that you are getting a properly formulated capsule.
    • Look for formulations that have hypericin or hyperforin on the label. These are the most heavily researched active components of St. John's wort.[12]
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    Be aware of the possible side effects. St. John's wort may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. Wear sunscreen daily while you are taking St. John's wort. An SPF of 30 or higher is recommended.[13] Other side effects can include anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction.[14] Stop taking the medicine and see your doctor if you experience any of these side effects.
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    Do not take with certain medications. St. John's wort interacts with some drugs. The herb affects the way the body processes or breaks down many drugs. In some cases, it may speed or slow a drug's breakdown. Drugs that can be affected include:[15]
    • Antidepressants
    • Birth control pills
    • Cyclosporine, which prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs
    • Digoxin, which strengthens heart muscle contractions
    • Indinavir and possibly other drugs used to control HIV infection
    • Irinotecan and possibly other drugs used to treat cancer
    • Seizure control drugs such as phenytoin and phenobarbital
    • Warfarin and related anticoagulants
    • General anesthesia used during surgery
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    Do not take it if you are pregnant. Do not take St.John's wort if you're trying to become pregnant either. High doses can damage your reproductive eggs. If you have mood swings while you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before you take St. John's wort. Also ask your doctor if it is safe for you to take St. John's wort while you are breastfeeding, it may have a negative effect on your baby.[16]

Method 3
Making St. John's Wort remedies

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    Harvest St John's wort in the wild. St. John's wort is a plant with bright yellow flowers and a few black dots along the margins of the flower (depending of the species). The leaves of the plant have transparent dots. Each flower will have five petals. You can find the flower growing in fields and pastures in sunny areas. [17] Flowers bloom from late June to early September.[18]
    • To harvest the plant cut off the upper first third of the plant. Dry the flowers by hanging them upside down in a cool, dry place.[19]
    • Once the flowers are dried, store them in an airtight glass container. You can keep them for up to one year.
    • Find a picture of the flower and take it with you when you go harvesting.
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    Grow your own St John's wort. You can buy seeds and grow your own St. John's wort as well. Plant your seeds in early spring after the last frost. To be safe, plant your seeds indoors first, and then replant outside in late spring when the plant is about two inches tall. Your flowers will not bloom until the second year. If you need your St. John's wort immediately, it is best to harvest the plant or buy the dried flowers.
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    Buy St John's wort flowers. If you do not want to grow or harvest your own, you can buy dried St. John's wort from a store or online. You can then make your own tea and oil with the dried plant. Look for plants that were grown organically and harvested within the last year.
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    Make an oil. Take the flowering tops and a couple of inches of the plant and place them in a glass jar. Cover the flowers with olive oil. Set the jar in a sunny window for two to four weeks until the oil becomes bright red. Once the oil is red, use a strainer to separate the flowers and the oil. Pour the oil into a bottle with a lid and keep it in a dark cupboard. The oil should last for a year.[20]
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    Make tea. You will need 1/4 a cup of the plant if you are using fresh St. John's wort for your tea. If you are using dried plant, you will only need two teaspoons. Pour a cup of boiling water over the plant and let it sit for 5 minutes. Strain the water to remove all of the plant and drink the tea. You can add honey and lemon to improve the taste.

Method 4
Treating Other Conditions with St John's Wort

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    Apply St John's wort to your skin. St John's wort has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. You can treat eczema, minor wounds or burns, skin irritation, and hemorrhoids with it. St John's wort oil can be purchased at your local pharmacy or online. Follow the directions on the bottle. It may take three to six weeks before you see any changes.[21]
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    Treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS). St John's wort can relieve some of the physical and emotional symptoms associated with PMS such as cramps, irritability, food cravings, and breast tenderness. Take 300 mg three times a day to relieve them [22]. Stop taking the medicine when your PMS has ended.
    • The combination of Black Cohosh and St. John's wort may help improve mood and anxiety during menopause as well.
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    Treat somatic disorders. Somatic disorders are when you experience pain or fear, but there is no reason for you to experiencing them.[23] You may also feel like your are sick, yet all of your medical examinations and tests have negative results. Take 300 mg of St John's wort twice a day to relieve your symptoms.[24]


  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use.
  • Stop taking St. John's wort at least 5 days before you have any kind of surgery.
  • It is also known as hypericum, Klamath weed, and goat weed.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Herbal Health