St. Johns Wort (Hypericum)
Hypericum is a plant with "perforated" appearing leaves, and has the latin name Hypericum perforatum", accordingly. Hypericum is also known by the name "St. John's wort", perhaps after John the Baptist, since the Greek scriptures used in the Bible say that "John lived on honey and wild locusts" (the Greek work for insect is "akron" and is usually an image of an insect landing on a plant. So, perhaps this meant he consumed the plants as well as the locust! Nevertheless, hypericum is used today as a remedy for several maladies. Hypericum grows wild in many places of the planet, and is even considered an annoying "weed" in some areas.
In folk medicine, hypericum has been used for many ailments, most medically unproven, but it does have some uses, as do all plants. Like many plants, it has antibacterial substances in it, and has been used for cleaning wounds. There has been much discussion and most likely, research into the claims of using hypericum as an aide to combat depression. In the past, hypericum was added in potions and mixtures to give a sense of well-being. Of course, it may have been any of the other ingredients that caused this affect. However, hypericum may also have played a role. Chemically speaking, many plants, if ingested, will affect the mental state. This is because there are thousands of different molecules in plants that reach the brain and can obviously have an effect on it. Whether or not a substance or group of substances produced by hypericum combat depression has not been clinically proven, but then again, they may in some people. (Keep in mind that we are all genetically different, and some people react to substances in different ways in comparison to others.
Hypericum is not known to be a harmful botanical product, if taken in small time-tested doses. However, do note that if you are on certain medications, you should not take it, without medical review. Hypericum, like most botanical products, can interact with medications, and can result in sickness, and even death. If you are antidepressants already, hypericum could have an affect, so this is something that you would want to discuss with a doctor. He may suggest for you to try hypericum on its own first (if your depression is not substantial-and no thoughts of suicide or self-harm). And then if the hypericum has no effect, then the normal array of antidepressants can be prescribed. If you are not sure what to tell your doc, show them this article (we're docs!) Also, hypericum can cause photosensitivy in animals, so if you're taking tetracyclines, or anything else that can cause this, ask your doc first! We put hypericum to the test. We took a number of subjects of different results of a MSE (mental status exam) and let them try a selected dose of hypericum. A third of the subjects reported a mild degree of change in what they claimed was their normal personality. Reaction time also changed for a selected group of pre-arranged tests. What seemed like a change in their personality, appeared to be a "blunting" of their responses. This was quite interesting, and we are following up response times, and plotting a curve to "regaining" of normal response times. Was this due to a standard deviation of the normal, placebo effect, or other unknown factors? I think it is interesting to continue to investigate and will report the results as soon as I complete them. In summary, hypericum may have some useful benefits. In reality, all plants have something very useful for us. We merely have to elucidate what that use is.