Vitamin Expert

St John’s Wort

(Hypericum perforatum)

Botanical family: Clusiaceae
Parts used: Flowers
Main active ingredients: Hypercin, hyperforin, tannins, flavonoids
Actions: Anti-depressant, anti-viral, nerve tonic
Good for: Low mood, SAD, anxiety, nervous tension
Available forms: Tablets, teas, tincture

Growing wild in many parts of the world including Europe, Asia and the US, this bushy perennial plant has lovely yellow flowers. It is named after St John the Baptist as it was traditionally collected on St John’s Day, June 24th.

History of St John’s wort

St John’s wort has been used as a remedy for nerve disorders for more than 2,000 years. It was popular in ancient Greece and Rome as a healing remedy for wounds, as well as sores, burns, bruises and nerve pains. It was also thought to ward off evil spirits and the insane would often drink an infusion of St John’s wort in an attempt to ward off madness.

Current uses of St John’s wort


At least 30 studies on more than 1,700 patients show that St John’s wort can be an effective remedy for mild- to-moderate depression without the side effects of more conventional anti-depressants. It is not known exactly how it works but it is thought to help prolong the action of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin – a deficiency of which can result in depression.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

St John’s wort is often prescribed to help banish SAD, often called the winter blues – a condition bought on by the lack of sunlight that occurs in autumn and winter. In one study comparing St John’s wort to light therapy, the researchers concluded that St John’s wort was as effective as light therapy. They wrote that the herb ‘…brings light into dark places.’


St John’s wort can help to increase the production of the hormone melatonin (the brain’s natural sedative) to help improve the quality of sleep.

PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome)

Many women report that taking St John’s wort for depression can help to relieve PMS symptoms. Similarly older women have found that it can relieve menopausal symptoms.

How to take St John’s wort

300mg (900mcg hypericin) to 900mg can be taken daily. One-a-day formulations are available.


If you are taking prescribed medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking St John’s wort. It can interfere with how some prescribed medicines work.
Do not take with other anti-depressant drugs.
Do not take with the following: warfarin, cyclosporine, oral contraceptives, anti-convulsants, digoxin, theophylline, HIV protease inhibitors, triptans and SSRI anti-depressants.
Do not take during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Avoid over-exposure to the sun especially if fair-skinned while taking St John’s wort.

Try this

St John’s wort is available in KarmaMood St John’s Wort (traditionally used to lift low mood and relieve symptoms of mild anxiety) and in MenoMood Menopause Mood Relief Tablets alongside black cohosh (traditionally used for hot flushes, night sweats, low mood and mild anxiety)

For more information and advice on low mood and depression visit the feeling blue website.