Sept 9, 2002: What is St. John’s Wort?

St. John’s Word is derived from the plant Hypericum perforatum. It has been used in Greece for various ailments since ancient times.  Currently sold as an antidepressant it has been called “herbal Prozac.”  The drug contains many active ingredients.  The drug inhibits the uptake of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, but only at blood levels not generally obtained with regular use.  In an recent trial where it was compared to Zoloft and placebo, St. John’s Wort did not proved efficacious in moderately severe depression.  There is little data on toxicity of this herb in overdose.

As always, if there are any questions, call the MTPC.

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Donna Seger, M.D.
Medical Director, Middle Tennessee Poison Center