St. John's Wort As A Treatment For Depression: Herbal Healer or Ineffective Alternative?

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St. John's Wort As A Treatment For Depression: Herbal Healer or Ineffective Alternative?

This country has its share of major health issues, and Depression has remained a prominent one. With a prevalence rate of one in twenty suffering from this psychological disease in the US, (1) it is no wonder that many varying treatment options now exist for sufferers. The most common approach to treating Depression is with some form of psychotherapy coupled with prescription drugs. However, this traditional course of treatment now has the so called 'alternative' approaches to contend with. One such alternative therapy is Hypericum, an herb that is more commonly known as St. John's Wort. There is a bubbling debate between believers in the herbal
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The process can take close to a year. With St. John's Wort, however, the herb is easily obtainable, does not need a prescription, and is available at a much lower cost than prescription drugs. It also boasts few side effects and mild ones at that, versus the multiple side effects that go along with such popular prescription antidepressants such as Prozac. (2)

Now we will turn to the other side of the coin, as it were. The US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved St. John's Wort as an effective treatment for depression. This lack of approval is mostly due to the fact that little research has been conducted on the effects of St. John's Wort. That is, until recently.

In April 2001 and again this month (April 2002) The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the results of clinical trials conducted to test whether St. John's Wort works to treat Depression. (3, 4, 5) Both times the results did not favor the use of the herb. The most recent JAMA report concluded, "...hypericum should not be substituted for standard clinical care of proven efficacy, including antidepressant medications and specific psychotherapies, for the treatment of major depression of moderate severity." (3)

When interviewed about the results of the JAMA reports, Psychiatrist Mark

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