Natural and Effective Antidepressant – St. John’s Wort!

Let me preface this conversation by saying I believe integrated medicine is the way of the future. I strive to create dialogue between myself and other healthcare practitioners in practice, especially if we are treating the same patient/same condition. Not only because I believe we all have a space in the health sphere and we can learn to respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Even more importantly because it is in the best interest of the patient to have all practitioners fully aware of what treatments, medications, and supplements the patient is taking.

Recently I had an MD, who I am co-managing a patient, with question my prescription because he deemed it to have “no validity whatsoever”. Well now, wouldn’t you imagine my annoyance when you understand that I had prescribed one of the most well researched herbs in North America.

What you ask? Well that herb is Hypericum perforatum or St. John’s wort. I knew this, not only because of my extensive knowledge in using botanicals but also because as a student I spent an entire summer working in the department of Pharmacology at the University of Toronto and my job was to conduct an exhaustive review of the literature for St. John’s wort.

So I wanna get this out there, just so everyone is very aware. St. John’s wort is equally as effective (let me say that again – EQUALLY as effective) at treating mild to moderate major depression as standard antidepressant medications and with less side effects…. less side effects!

The biggest body of research has come from the Cochrane Review in 2008. Cochrane is internationally recognized for conducting large systematic reviews and driving evidence based clinical care.

They collected data from 29 different randomized, double-blind, controlled, clinical trials, including a total of 5489 patients.

From this, they concluded that
1. St. John’s wort is better than placebo (not giving anything at all)
2. Similar to antidepressants
3. Fewer side effects

Consumption of antidepressants in Canada is the third-highest among 23 developed countries. 86 doses of antidepressants are consumed daily per 1000 people and 2/3 of these people are women.

With antidepressant use this high, it is critical that we talk about alternatives, so that patients can make a fully informed decision about their health care.

If you think this herb might be right for you, please don’t self prescribe. St. John’s wort can interact with other drugs so you want to make sure you’re taking it safely. It is equally important to choose a product made by a reputable company so that you can be certain you’re getting the appropriate amount of medicine in a form that will be properly absorbed. Naturopathic doctors are best positioned to counsel you through this process. Also, if you’re being treated by me, then our plan will be comprehensive, not simply restricted to an herbal replacement to a pharmaceutical intervention. We will work together to uncover the root cause, adding specific interventions to get you feeling well again!

You can connect with me at

Linde K, Berner MM, Kirston L. St. John’s wort for major depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8; (4).

Tencer, D. Antidepressant Use in Canada Among Highest in the World:OECD. Nov 22, 2013.

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