St. John's Wort Shown Effective as Antidepressant
The ancient Greeks were among the first to advocate the use of Hypericum perforatum (St. John's wort) as a treatment against "demonic possession." Today, various extracts of St. John's wort are prescribed (and in some countries, available over the counter) for the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Recent studies comparing St. John's wort with traditional antidepressant medications have been encouraging, albeit controversial and subject to considerable criticism for questionable methodology and/or study design.
Three hundred twenty-four patients with mild to moderate depression comprised the study population for this randomized trial comparing St. John's wort extract with imipramine, one of the most commonly used tricyclic antidepressants. Patients consumed 250 mg of pharmacy-grade hypericum extract or 75 mg imipramine twice daily for six weeks. Main outcome measures included the Hamilton depression rating scale, clinical global impression scale, and patient global impression scale.
After six weeks of treatment, hypericum and imipramine were therapeutically equivalent with respect to the outcome measures, with a subscale of the Hamilton scale indicating a significant advantage of hypericum relative to imipramine. Average tolerability scores were also better for patients taking St. John's wort extract, and these patients had fewer adverse reactions compared to those treated with imipramine.
Woelk H. Comparison of St. John's wort and imipramine for treating depression: randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal
, Sept. 2, 2000:321, pp536-39.