Newsweek Reports Depression Safely Treated with St. John's Wort


May 5, 1997

A two-page spread in Newsweek (May 5, 1997) entitled, "A Natural Mood Booster," describes the success and safety of an herb called St. Johnswort (also St. John's Wort) in treating depression.

Newsweek reports, "It's been popular for about 15 years in Europe as a natural remedy for depression. In Germany, where it's currently the leading treatment, physicians write some three million prescriptions a year--25 times the number they write for Prozac."

Reporter Sue Miller noted, "The respected Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology aroused a good deal of interest in 1994, when it devoted an entire issue--17 research papers in all--to "Hypericum: A Novel Antidepressant." One compelling study tracked the herb's effects on 3,250 patients battling mostly mild and moderate depression and found that about 80 percent either felt better or became completely free of symptoms after four weeks."

It is also reported that last August the British Medical Journal published a review of 23 controlled studies involving 1,757 depressed patients. In that analysis, researchers from the United States and Germany found that St. John's Wort worked nearly three times better than a placebo.

The British Medical Journal article (BMJ No. 7052, Volume 313, August 3, 1996) was authored by Drs. Klaus, Gilbert Ramirez, Cynthia Mulrow, Andrej Pauls, Wolfgang Weidenhammer and Dieter Melchart.

Reporter Sue Miller quotes Dr. Mulrow of the Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital as saying, "It's a reasonable alternative to consider."

According to the Newsweek article, "The optimum dosage, based on the majority of medical studies, is 300 milligrams of Hypericum extract containing 0.3 percent of the active ingredient hypericin three times a day. Give the herb at least a few weeks to start working."

The article goes on to report, "Purdue University herb expert, Varro Tyler, notes that prescription antidepressants, such as Prozac, cause more common and more serious side effects, such as insomnia, weight loss and sexual dysfunction. " The absence of serious side effects is one of Hypericum's biggest selling points, he says." U. S. researchers from the NIMH and the NIH's Office of Alternative Medicine are now planning a large multicenter trial of the herb."

When CNN reported on the August 1996 British Medical Journal study, they commented, "At least one out of every 20 Americans gets depressed each year, and many rely on antidepressants to help them cope. A new study shows the herb, St. John's Wort, might be just as effective, and with fewer side effects....St. John's Wort is just as helpful as drugs, with none of the side effects, such as headaches or vomiting."

CNN quoted Dr. Mulrow as saying, "Some of the commonly used medicines have a basis on herbs or have a basis in plants, and some of the ones were developed using plants." CNN added, "While St. John's Wort may not be well known in the United States, doctors in Germany prescribe it for depression, and insurance pays for it."