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#42 St. John’s Wort (Hypericum)

Herbal Healing: Exploration of Hypericum for Mental Health

Growing one to three feet tall, hypericum reaches out with leafy branches and bright yellow flowers (Spira, 2011). Commonly known as St. John’s-wort, depending on your perspective, you may see a weed or an addition to your garden. As unappealing as the name may be, this plant has a long history of herbal healing and might just improve your mindset (Schulz, Hänsel, Blumenthal, & Tyler 2013). Utilized for over 2000 years, the name hypericum originates from the Greek words for ‘above’ & ‘health’ (“Hypericum,” n.d., Etymology). A plant historically used for its antiviral, bactericidal, and mood stabilizing qualities (Barnes, Anderson, & Phillipson, 2001), the common name bloomed with the flower in Europe, Canada, and the United States, as it does around St. John’s Day in June (“St. John’s-wort,” n.d., Etymology). In summer, look to fields and roadsides for St. John’s-wort (Spira, 2011), as it is being increasingly studied for its pharmacological effects on mental health (Barnes et al., 2001).

St. John
St. John’s-wort: A plant with an unappealing name, but an appeal for mental health.
Image Source: CNA / Canva

Are there studies?

Taking an active role in managing your quality of life includes acknowledging its significant relationship to mental health. Examining research on St. John’s-wort, including controlled and randomized studies, suggests that it may be a successful natural option for those searching to treat mild to moderate depression (Barnes et al., 2001). Barnes et al. determined its extracts as effective in treating mild to moderate depression, in comparison to placebo (as cited in Linde & Mulrow, 2001). In further studies, the efficacy of St. John’s-wort was also compared with standard antidepressants, rather than placebo. While there was some evidence to support the herbal treatment in being as effective as some antidepressants, it was established that greater study is required for confirmation, especially in regard to newer developed antidepressants (Barnes et al., 2001). Ultimately, St. John’s-wort remains considered by many as a herbal antidepressant, due to its successful treatment of mild forms of depression (Schulz et al., 2013).

Is St. John’s-Wort right for you?

This herb is available in a variety of forms including pills, solutions, and ointments from most pharmacies and natural food stores (Barnes et al., 2001). Ensure you seek counsel from your doctor or pharmacist before self-treating with St. John’s-wort (Barnes et al., 2001). Counsel is crucial, as it is important to confirm any potentials for adverse interactions, particularly with prescription medications (Barnes et al., 2001). Furthermore, possible side effects for consideration include photosensitivity or a harmful sensitivity to sunlight (Barnes et al., 2001). After proper consultation, St. John’s-wort may be a useful natural option for improving mental health by treating mild to moderate depression. While this treatment has not been studied in direct relationship to all neuropathy symptoms, it may be worth exploring as an alternative antidepressant, as recommended on C.N.A’s 100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief: Manage Symptoms and Pain. Whether or not you have interest in it, next time you find this preppy plant smiling at you, take a moment to remember the importance of monitoring and caring for your mental health; then go ahead and continue with your walk or your weed killer spray.

If you are interested in further reading on the specific compounds or studies regarding hypericum you can access a valuable PDF of the Barnes et al. (2001) review at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1211/0022357011775910

We can't do it alone.

Food for thought...


  • Barnes, J., Anderson, L. A. and Phillipson, J. D. (2001), St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum L.): a review of its chemistry, pharmacology and clinical properties. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 53: 583-600. https://doi.org/10.1211/0022357011775910 Hypericum. (n.d.). In Oxford English dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com.elibrary.calgarypubliclibrary.com/view/Entry/90331?redirectedFrom=hypericum#eid 
  • Schulz, V., Hänsel, R., Blumenthal, M., & Tyler, V. E. (2013). Rational phytotherapy: A reference guide for physicians and pharmacists. Springer Science & Business Media. Available from https://books.google.ca/books?id=5CO2ZezbDukC&pg=PA62&dq=plants+st+johns+wort&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiIyuKom5DaAhUM5mMKHWgwDZE4HhDoAQgrMAE#v=onepage&q=plants%20st%20johns%20wort&f=false Spira, T. P. (2011). 
  • Wildflowers and plant communities of the southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont: A naturalist’s guide to the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia. Univ of North Carolina Press. Available from https://books.google.ca/books?id=xmh4_bgZiGsC&pg=PA390&dq=plants+st+johns+wort&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjl9_O_mpDaAhVI0WMKHej5AHM4FBDoAQg6MAQ#v=onepage&q=plants%20st%20johns%20wort&f=false St. John’s-wort. (n.d.). 
  • In Oxford English dictionary. Retrieved From http://www.oed.com.elibrary.calgarypubliclibrary.com/view/Entry/37125396?redirectedFrom=St.+Johns-wort#eid

More on Mental Health: #44 Rethinking Self-Talk: Mindfulness, Journaling for Health & Convo, 3 secrets of resilience

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