St. John's Wort: Overview

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Overview of St. John's wort, an herbal treatment for mild to moderate depression. Includes side-effects of St. John's wort.

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This fact sheet provides basic information about the herb St. John's wort--common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. St. John's wort is a plant with yellow flowers.

Common Names--St. John's wort, hypericum, Klamath weed, goat weed

Latin Name--Hypericum perforatum

What It Is Used For

  • St. John's wort has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain.

  • In ancient times, herbalists wrote about its use as a sedative and a treatment for malaria, as well asSt. John's Wort: Herbs at a glance a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites.

  • Today, St. John's wort is used by some for depression, anxiety, and/or sleep disorders.

How It Is Used

The flowering tops of St. John's wort are used to prepare teas and tablets containing concentrated extracts.

What the Science Says

  • There is some scientific evidence that St. John's wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression. However, two large studies, one sponsored by NCCAM, showed that the herb was no more effective than placebo in treating major depression of moderate severity.

  • NCCAM is studying the use of St. John's wort in a wider spectrum of mood disorders, including minor depression.

Side Effects of St. John's Wort and Cautions

  • St. John's wort may cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. Other side effects can include anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction.

  • Research shows that St. John's wort interacts with some drugs. The herb affects the way the body processes or breaks down many drugs; in some cases, it may speed or slow a drug's breakdown. Drugs that can be affected include:

    • Indinavir and possibly other drugs used to control HIV infection

    • Irinotecan and possibly other drugs used to treat cancer

    • Cyclosporine, which prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs

    • Digoxin, which strengthens heart muscle contractions

    • Warfarin and related anticoagulants

    • Birth control pills

    • Antidepressants

  • When combined with certain antidepressants, St. John's wort may increase side effects such as nausea, anxiety, headache, and confusion.

  • St. John's wort is not a proven therapy for depression. If depression is not adequately treated, it can become severe. Anyone who may have depression should see a health care provider. There are effective proven therapies available.

  • It is important to inform your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including St. John's wort. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.

You can find here information on St. John's Wort and the Treatment of Depression


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. St. John's Wort and the Treatment of Depression. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Web site. Accessed June 30, 2005.

St. John's Wort. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed June 30, 2005.

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed June 30, 2005.

St. John's wort. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:359-366.

De Smet PA. Herbal remedies. New England Journal of Medicine. 2002;347(25):2046-2056.

Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St. John's wort) in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2002;287(14):1807-1814.

For More Information

Visit the NCCAM Web site and view:

"What's in the Bottle? An Introduction to Dietary Supplements" "Herbal Supplements: Consider Safety, Too"

NCCAM Clearinghouse
Toll-free in the U.S.: 1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 1-866-464-3615

CAM on PubMed
Web site:

NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site:

NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy in this information is not an endorsement by NCCAM.



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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 24). St. John's Wort: Overview, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: July 12, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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