St. John’s Wort or Hypericum perforatum is one of the most researched and widely used herbal remedy for depression and related conditions. Find the common names, latin name, family, mechanism of action, medicinally used parts, dosage, phytochemical ingredients and the timing of its dosage.
- Common St. John’s Wort
- Klamath weed
- Goat weed
Synonyms Of St. John’s Wort:
- Amber touch-and-heal
- Balm-of-warrior’s wound, Balsana, bassant, Blutkraut, bossant
- Dendlu, devil’s scorge
- Flor de Sao Joa, fuga daemonum
- Goatweed hartheu
- Heofarigo on herba de millepertius, herba hyperici, herrgottsblut, hexenkraut, hierba de San Juan, hipericao, hiperico hipericon, HP
- Jarsin, Johanniskraut
- Klammath weed,
- Liebeskraut, LI 160, lord God’s wonder plant
- Millepertius pelicao,
- Perforate, pinillo de oro, PM235, pseudohypericin
- Rosin rose
- Tenturotou, Teufelsflucht, touch and heal
- Walpurgiskraut, witcher’s herb, WS 5572
Latin Name Of St. John’s Wort:
Hypericum perforatum. The Latin name is derived from Greek name that means “over an apparition”. It refers to a belief that a whiff of this herb can make the evil spirit to leave the body and free the person.
The first word in Latin name – hypericum – is derived from ‘hyper’ meaning above and ‘eikon’ meaning picture. So hypericum is in reference of its ability to ward off evil or bad by hanging its sprig over a picture in house on St. John’s day. The word ‘perforatum’ is related to the perforated look of the leaves. Leaves reveal translucent dots when held in light that gives it perforated look. These dots are a layer of a colorless essential oil and resin.
It was placed in Hypericaceae family earlier and now it is included in Clusiaceae. The genus Hypericum contains more than 300 species. Hypericum perforatum is the most often used species in herbal remedies.
The Medicinally Used Parts Of St. John’s Wort:
- Flowering tops of plants are used mostly for preparing extracts and herbal tea.
Mechanism Of Action Of Hypericum Extract:
How the phytochemicals actually work in human body is not known exactly but several theories have been forwarded. This job is extremely difficult because a single herb has scores of active biochemicals that affect our body. Plus these phytochemicals can exert synergistic effects in the presence of other phytochemical in that plant.
That is why studies that are centered on a single active ingredient from a plant source are not often successful.
Some early studies indicate that St. John’s Wort might work by preventing nerve cells in brain from reabsorbing the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine just like the effect produced by modern SSRI antidepressant drugs. Others maintained that this herb works by reducing levels of a protein involved in immune system of body.
Different Forms Of St. John’s Wort:
- Capsules or tablets.
- Herbal Ttea or decoction.
- Extracts – Whole herb extract or partial extract.
- Alcohol based liquid tinctures.
- Oil based preparation for external use.
Phytochemical Ingredients In St. John’s Wort Extract:
There are at least ten groups of compounds responsible for anti-depressant effect and hypericins and flavonoids are the most important among them. Like with many other plants, it is not possible to attribute its medicinal effects to a single active ingredient.
- Hypericin and Pseudohypericin concentration vary in different parts. In buds and flowers the concentration varies between 0.06% to 0.75% (the usual concentration is 0.10-0.15%). Concentration below 0.10% indicate that there is more of lower parts of stem in the plant.
- Total hypericin should be measured after exposure of the crude plant to sunlight. Some precursors of hypericin and pseudohypericin are present in the plant and after exposure to light, these biological precursors – protohypericin and protopseudohypericin converts to their original form – hypericin and pseudohypericin.
- Hyperforin is only 2.8%. This phytochemical is related to hop bitters.
- Red colored hypericins are unique to st. john’s wort while all other compounds are found commonly in other plants.
- Polymerization products of hypericins.
- Flavonoids, quercitin, hyperoside, quercitrin, campherol, rutin, luteolin, isoquercitrin, 13-118 biapegenin. Their total concentration varies between 2% – 4%.
- Procyanidines amount to 8% and they are related to flavonoids.
- 1,3,6,7 tetrahydroxyxanthone is present in 0.0004%. This phytochemical is the aglycone of the magniferin that is found in other species of hypericum genus.
St. John’s Wort Dosage:
The dosage for preparations of st. john’s wort is as recommended by British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee (1983) are as follows.
- Dried Herb or its infusion: 2-4 gms three times a day.
- Liquid Extract: 2-4 ml (1:1 in 25% alcohol) three times a day.
- Tincture: 2-4 ml (1:10 in 45% alcohol) three times a day.
- 300 mg of hypericum extract can be taken three times a day. Or one can take 250 mg of hypericum extract four times a day.
- Maintenance Dose could well be 300-600 mg of st. john’s wort extract.
- Children should not take more than 300 mg of hypericum extract in a day. Its use in children and kids is not well documented.
- Kids are suggested not to take more than 600 mg of hypericum extract in a day.
- Topically used cream contained 1.5% of hyperforin.
300 mg of hypericum extract daily is advised for cardiovascular regulation and somatoform disorders. 600-1800 mg of hypericum extract had been used in social phobia patients.
There is lack of standardized preparations of st. john’s wort in market. That is why people consider it safe to take those preparations that had been used previously in prominent research studies. People should take hypericum at least for four weeks before assessing its efficacy.
There are some preparations in market with hypericin (0.3% standardized) as standard and others with hyperforin (2-5% standardized) as standard. Clinical trials usually had preparations with 350 – 1800 mg of st. john’s wort extract (equivalent to 0.4 mg to 2.7 mg hypericin) daily.
The Timing Of The Dosage Of St. John’s Wort:
The timing for taking hypericum dose is not very strict. It can be taken three or four or two times a day. The three dosage can be three hours apart or eight hours apart.
Some persons prefer to take it in the morning while others like to take it in the evening and before going to bed. So one can do a little experimentation with the dosage of St. John’s Wort.