German Study Supports St. John's Wort Depression Claim

October 9, 2008

The plant extract of Hypericum perforatum, or St. John’s wort, is grown on nearly every continent in the world, but has only recently been scientifically cited as a potential gatekeeper for depression. The study, reported in the Cochrane Systematic Review (United Kingdom) in October, included reviews of 29 trials with a total of 5,489 patients prescribed with symptoms of “major depression.”

The plant extract of Hypericum perforatum, or St. John’s wort, is grown on nearly every continent in the world, but has only recently been scientifically cited as a potential gatekeeper for depression. The study, reported in the Cochrane Systematic Review (United Kingdom) in October, included reviews of 29 trials with a total of 5,489 patients prescribed with symptoms of “major depression.”

"Overall, we found that the St. John's wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebos and as effective as standard antidepressants, with fewer side effects," said lead researcher, Klaus Linde of the Centre for Complementary Medicine in Munich, Germany.

While researchers applauded the effects of St. John’s wort in depression patients, they were quick to note that the plant should not be labeled as an anti-depressant, especially since the effects of its fusion with other drugs is not yet known.

"Using a St. Johns wort extract might be justified, but products on the market vary considerably, so these results only apply to the preparations tested," said Linde.

The report comes in light of a 2002 NCCAM (Bethesda, Maryland) sponsored study that showed that “the herb was no more effective than placebo in treating major depression of moderate severity.”

"Overall, we found that patients taking either St. John's wort or placebo had similar rates of response according to scales commonly used for measuring depression," concluded the 2002 NCCAM report.

The new Cochrane report noted that results were more favorable in German-speaking countries where doctors regularly prescribe St. John’s wort as an herbal treatment.

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