HERBAL REMEDIES for Depression
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
For years this herb has been widely used in Europe to treat both mild depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. In 1997, British researchers analyzed 26 controlled studies conducted in 1700 patients and concluded that the herb was as effective as certain antidepressant drugs in treating mild to moderate depression.3
Many experts believe that St. John’s wort works by keeping brain serotonin levels high for a longer period of time, just like the popular antidepressant drugs Paxil®, Zoloft® and Prozac®. It seems the power of St. John’s wort lies in two active ingredients, called hypericin and hyperforin. Researchers attribute most of the herb’s effectiveness to hyperforin.
When shopping for a St. John’s wort product, look for a brand that meets the following criteria:
• It should be standardized to contain hypericin—0.3 percent.
• It should contain a high amount of hyperforin—3 percent. There are some advanced formulas that contain hyperforin, and one manufactured in Europe, called Movana™, has been used in clinical studies.
The effective dosage is one 300-milligram tablet three times a day. The herb is generally well tolerated. When the herb is taken in high doses for a long period of time, it may cause sensitivity to sunlight in very light-skinned individuals. St. John’s wort has the potential to interact with a number of medications. Do not take the herb if you are using any of the following drugs: Crixivan® (indinavir), Sandimmune® (cyclosporine), Theo-Dur® (theophylline), Coumadin® (warfarin), birth control pills or Lanoxin® (digoxin). It is not recommended for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you are taking a prescription antidepressant drug, do not take it concurrently with St. John’s wort. Always consult your physician first before stopping any medication.
If you are taking an SSRI drug (Prozac®, Efflexor®, Paxil®, Zoloft®, Serzone®) for your depression and are experiencing side effects that affect your sex life, consider adding ginkgo to your nutrition regime. After a patient taking ginkgo biloba for memory reported improved erections, Californian researchers decided to see if there was something to it. A group of 63 men and women who complained of sexual dysfunction as a result of antidepressant medication were given 60 to 120 milligrams of ginkgo each day. And guess what—a standardized extract of the herb was found to be 84 percent effective in treating sexual dysfunction.4 And women were more responsive than men with success rates of 91 percent versus 76 percent. A handful of other studies have found similar results.
The active ingredients responsible for ginkgo’s beneficial effects are called terpene lactones and ginkgo flavone glycosides. These components act to increase blood flow to the extremities. Guidelines for buying a top quality ginkgo supplement are as follows:
• Choose a product that is standardized to contain 24 percent ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones.
• The EGb 761 extract used in the scientific research is sold as Ginkoba® in the United States.
The recommended dose of ginkgo biloba to reverse sexual dysfunction is 60 milligrams taken twice daily. Start the 120-milligram dose by taking a 40-milligram tablet with each of three meals. On rare occasions ginkgo may cause gastrointestinal upset, headache or an allergic skin reaction in susceptible individuals. The herb should not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and there are no known interactions with other medications.