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Herb Not Found to Be Effective in Treating Depression

Because of anecdotal reports about the effectiveness of St. John's wort and sertraline in treating depression, many people have tried the herbs hoping that they would relieve some of their symptoms. But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that the herbs were not significantly more effective than a placebo in treating symptoms of depression.

A group of 340 people with major depression were randomly assigned to receive either 900 to 1500 milligrams of St. John's wort daily, 50 to 100 milligrams of sertraline daily or a daily placebo pill that contained no medication. The study was double-blind, which means that neither the study participants nor the investigators knew which pill the participants were taking until after the study ended. Before, during and after the study, participants rated their symptoms and how well they thought they were functioning on a scale used to assess depression symptoms.

Neither St. John's wort nor sertraline was significantly more effective at relieving symptoms of depression than the placebo, although sertraline was found to be slightly more effective at relieving symptoms than St. John's wort.

If you take St. John's wort or sertraline for symptoms of depression, you should be aware that these herbal supplements can cause severe reactions with prescription medications, such as antiretroviral therapy, some cardiovascular drugs and immunosuppressants. It's always a good idea to talk to your physician before taking any herbal supplements.

Sources:  Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 2002 Apr 10;287(14):1807-14.

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