Antidepressant used for depression, sadness and more.
St. John's wort is a yellow-flowered perennial plant that grows naturally throughout Europe and Asia. Long used medicinally for sadness and depression, it was also thought to drive out evil spirits. It gets its name from the fact that it blooms every year around St. John the Baptist Day. The leaves have small dimples or pinpricks on them, and they produce a red sap. The part used medicinally is the above-ground portion of the plant, such as the leaves and stems.
At least two separate reviews and some very recent clinical trials of St. John's wort extract now show that it is more effective than a placebo and as effective as conventional antidepressant drugs such as amitriptyline and fluoxetine (Prozac) to treat mild to moderate depression. One of the most important things to note with these trials is that St. John's wort was found to be equal, not superior, to conventional drugs. The exact way in which St. John's wort exerts this antidepressant action is still not clear and certainly very complex; it seems to work by increasing levels of a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin. Initially it was thought that hypericin was the constituent responsible for the antidepressant effects, but now it appears that hyperforin is the most important agent. In animal studies extracts of St. John's wort have been shown to prevent the HIV virus from replicating, but in human patients doses large enough to have this effect would be toxic. The red oil made from St. John's wort can be massaged into muscles for aches and muscle strains.
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