St. John’s wort is one of the world’s most well-known medicinal herbs. It effectively combats symptoms of mild to moderate depression in the vast majority of people, and it produces fewer side effects than conventional treatments such as serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications. Although much more known for its use as a depression treatment, St. John’s wort is also sometimes used to treat anxiety.
If you want to use St. John’s wort as a treatment for anxiety, understand these important facts.
1. There’s only limited evidence that it works.
Several studies have determined that St. John’s wort reduces anxiety symptoms in women who are going through menopause, but fewer clinicial trials have evaluated its use in people at other stages of life. There’s no strong, clear evidence that it can treat anxiety related to generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other chronic illnesses.
2. It can help if you also have depression.
Many people with anxiety also suffer from depression, which St. John’s wort can treat. If you are both depressed and anxious, St. John’s wort may reduce symptoms of the anxiety by combatting depression– a comorbid condition that may actually be the underlying cause.
3. It’s usually safe.
If you are a healthy adult and are not pregnant or taking medications, you can probably try St. John’s wort to see if it works for your anxiety symptoms. For most people, side effects are mild and uncommon. A few people experience worsened anxiety while using St. John’s wort; stop taking the supplement if these problems persist for several days.
4. Some people shouldn’t take it.
Despite its overall safety, some people should not take St. John’s wort. It can interact very dangerously with dozens of common drugs, including antidepressants and contraceptives (birth control). People with certain medical conditions should also avoid the herb because of an incraesed risk of serious side effects. Seek your health care provider’s guidance befor using St. John’s wort if you have a medical condition or take any medicine.
5. Know when to get help.
If your anxiety disorder is disabling or contributing to suicidal ideation, get help as soon as possible. This does not necessarily mean taking conventional drugs– in fact, counseling and peer support can be equally effective. With the help of an experienced holistic counselor, you may be able to manage your anxiety symptoms using relaxation techniques, therapy and lifestyle changes. Other herbs, such as kava and valerian, can also be beneficial.
Sources- National Institutes of Health, University of Maryland Medical Center