Herb of the Month - St John’s Wort

Author: Angela Fleming   Date Posted:1 November 2017 

Hypericum perforatum more commonly known as St John’s Wort is largely used in assisting and supporting healthy mood. Maintaining a healthy, happy and positive mood is beneficial for our general wellbeing, particularly in today’s world. Certain stages, moments or events in life can induce nervous tension, stress and mild anxiety, which can interfere with the ability to cope and function mentally. St John’s Wort has been shown to be more effective than placebo when it comes to supporting mental wellbeing.


What does folklore say?

St John’s Wort has a rich history of traditional and mystical use dating back centuries. In ancient Greek times it was believed that physicians Dioscorides and Hipoocrates used St John’s wort to rid the body of evil spirits. Legend has it that during the Burning Times a handful of St John’s wort was stuffed into an accused witch’s mouth to force her to confess. Many households would weave St John’s wort into wreaths to hang at the front of their dwellings in order to keep demons, ghosts and the devil away.

Folklore tells us that first century Christians were responsible for naming St John’s Wort after John the Baptist. The bright yellow flowers bloom at the time of the summer solstice on or around June the 24th, a time St John celebrated his birthday.


What does modern medicine say?

Modern medicine has investigated the use of St John’s Wort and suggests that it may:

  • Reduce the effects of mild anxiety and nervous tension.
  • Relieve nervous tension, stress and mild anxiety.
  • Help in the maintenance or improvement of general well-being.
  • Help relieve nervous unrest.
  • Ease the stress of study and work and help relieve restlessness and irritability.


How does it work?

St John’s wort has been evaluated extensively over several decades for it’s healthy mood benefits. So what exactly is in this pretty little plant that induces positive wellbeing? St John’s wort contains a myriad of beneficial ingredients. It is the 2 constituent’s hypericin and hyperforin that have gained the most interest when it comes to research. It is suggested that hypericin and hyperforin is involved in the regulation and balancing of neurotransmitter activity. St John’s Wort has been investigated on numerous occasions and compared with placebo, it has shown positive benefits for mental well-being.

These 2 constituents have been shown to provide therapeutic benefits via the regulation of neurotransmitter function. It has been suggested that St John’s wort inhibits the reuptake of the neurotransmitters noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.



What do neurotransmitters do? 

Neurotransmitters are chemicals stored in nerve cells. They are responsible for cellular communication via transmission of informatory signals known as action potentials. Action potentials produce a specific response relative to a current situation. Neurotransmitters either inhibit or excite action potentials.

Neurotransmitters play a pivotal part in producing an emotional response. Noradrenaline and dopamine are excitatory neurotransmitters; they excite action potentials and stimulate the brain. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it does not stimulate the brain. It is responsible for stabilising mood and balancing the effects of excessive excitatory neurotransmitters.

Whilst these neurotransmitters are responsible for triggering an emotional response it is important to note that changes in mental state arise due to a multitude of reasons. Neurotransmitter function may contribute to a current mental state, alongside other varying factors.   


Is St John’s wort for everyone?

Definitely not! Individuals taking pharmaceutical medications are strongly advised not to consume St John’s Wort as interactions can occur. St John’s Wort is a potent inducer of the complex enzymatic system in the liver, collectively known as cytochrome P450. This family of enzymes is responsible for the biotransformation and metabolism of many substances.    

St John’s Wort taken alongside pharmaceutical medications can either increase the actions or toxicity of existing medications, decrease the therapeutic benefit of existing medicines or enhance, stimulate or impede the existing disease process. *Always consult with your health practitioner prior to introducing supplements into your health regime.

St John’s Wort can be taken alongside vitamins, minerals and medicinal herbs with confidence.


When will I see results?

It is recommended to consume St John’s Wort for 4 weeks until results begin to become apparent. It is best to follow the recommended dosage on the label of your product. St John’s wort should be taken consistently each day in order to produce optimal affects. 


*if you need further assistance regarding your mental health, speak with your Doctor. 


Written by Angela Fleming
Angela Fleming

Angela (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who strongly believes in living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Angela believes being active, taking time out for yourself on a regular basis and consuming a balanced healthy diet (with the odd sneaky treat included now and then) is the fundamental key to keeping our minds and bodies in good health.

Angela loves to pass on her knowledge of healthy and happy living to her two young children, who love to experiment in the kitchen with her and train alongside her in Karate.

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