Frequently Asked Questions

14. I've heard that the herb St. John's wort is used to treat depression. Does it work and is it safe?

A bushy, wild-growing plant with yellow flowers, St John's wort has been used for centuries in many folk and herbal remedies. It is commonly used in Europe to treat mild depression, and it is a top-seller in the United States as well.

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the herb was found to be no more effective than a placebo (sugar pill) in treating adults suffering from major depression.

Other research has shown that St. John's wort can interact unfavorably with other drugs. The herb interferes with certain drugs used to treat heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers, and organ transplant rejection. Because of these potential interactions, older adults should always consult with their doctors before taking any herbal supplement.

Another product sold as a dietary supplement, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), has shown promise in controlled trials as helpful when added to an SSRI antidepressant that is only partially effective.