Addictive Potential: None
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: No recorded hospital visits
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: None
Mechanism of Action: The exact mechanism by which St John’s wort — and even conventional antidepressants — functions is unclear and subject to conjecture. The St John’s wort mechanism is believed to involve inhibition of serotonin (5-HT) reuptake, much like the conventional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. The major active antidepressive constituents in St John’s wort are thought to be hyperforin and hypericin, although other biologically active constituents present, for example, flavonoids and tannins, may also be involved. Some believe that hyperforin is the major constituent responsible for antidepressant activity, and it has been shown to inhibit the uptake of 5-HT, dopamine, noradrenaline, GABA and glutamate.
St John’s Wort is the plant species Hypericum perforatum, also known as Tipton’s Weed or Klamath weed, but, with qualifiers, is used to refer to any species of the genus Hypericum. Therefore, H. perforatum is sometimes called Common St John’s wort to differentiate it. The species of Hypericum have been placed by some in the family Hypericaceae, but more recently have been included in the Clusiaceae. Approximately 370 species of the genus Hypericum exist worldwide with a native geographical distribution including temperate and subtropical regions of North America, Europe, Asia Minor, Russia, India, and China.
St. John’s wort is today most widely known as an herbal treatment for depression. According to the Cochrane Review, a key resource in evidence-based medicine, “the available evidence suggests that the hypericum extracts tested in the included trials are superior to placebo in patients with major depression; are similarly effective as standard antidepressants; and have fewer side effects than standard antidepressants.”