The clinical studies on the effectiveness of the herb St. John Wort (SJW) as a natural treatment for mild to moderate depression are rather extensive and quite impressive. But if a pharmacy advocacy group has their way, your local pharmacist will keep its supply of SJW behind the counter and will give it to you only after giving you a lecture on its supposed dangerous side effects and drug interactions. Is Big Pharma looking out for your best interest or just protecting their pocket book?
In January, the Pharmacists Planning Services, Inc. (PPSI), a nonprofit self described “public health, consumer, pharmacy education organization” petitioned the FDA to remove St. John’s Wort from its current status of Herbal Dietary Supplement and change it to a “behind pharmacy counter” status. They cited safety reasons as the main motivation, including allegations of drug interactions and how mixing herbal supplements with prescription meds, over the counter drugs or other herbals might put consumers and patients at risk.
What’s Next – Putting Grapefruit behind the Pharmacist’s Counter?
Let’s examine first how absurd and spurious this request from Big Pharma really is and then whether there is a legitimate safety risk associated with SJW. Foods of all types can interact with drugs or herbs, and people who eat those foods learn to recognize these possible issues. Grapefruit is a great example; it contains a drug interaction list very similar to that of SJW. So does that mean we should only sell grapefruit as a “behind the pharmacist’s counter” substance so that we poor, uniformed consumers can be duly warned to be careful when eating that grapefruit? That’s ridiculous – as is the PPSI request.
Regarding the safety profile of SJW, ConsumerLab.com reports that SJW is generally safe, with the most significant risk involving drug interactions where it appears that SJW may reduce blood levels of many medications, thus reducing their effectiveness. In one clinical study comparing SJW to Prozac (Fluoxetine), the researchers concluded that SJW was superior to Prozac in effectiveness and was substantially superior to Prozac in safety from side effects.
St. John’s Wort as a Natural Treatment for Depression Poses a Serious Threat to Big Pharma
It is clear that SJW represents a clear and present danger to the pharmaceutical companies’ pocket book, and they are attempting to squelch it usage. Our government’s own Centers for Disease Control reported in 2011 that one out of every ten Americans over age 11 years is currently taking antidepressant medication. More shockingly, almost one out of every four women aged 40–59 currently takes antidepressants, and more than 60% of Americans taking the drug have taken it for 2 years or longer. Overall use has increased 400% over ten years; and between 2005 and 2008, it was the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages. It is imminently clear these drugs are huge money-makers for drug companies.
Other Natural Treatment for Depression Options
The truth is that St. John’s Wort is only one of several effective natural treatments for depression. It does not work for everyone, so other safe options are needed. SJW appears to work for some with depression because it improves serotonin and dopamine availability in the brain. But a deficiency in one or both of these neurotransmitters is just one possible cause of depression. The specific underlying causes for a person’s depression is unique to each person; and knowing what those are for the individual considering treatment is the key to determining the correct natural healing therapy. The good news is that discovery of that underlying cause is both possible and probable when armed with an healing supporter/advocate and the right kind of natural health information.
Written by Tom P. Vick, who runs and regularly contributes to an online database of natural health treatments for chronic health conditions.