St. John’s Wort helpful in Severe Depression

New research shows the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort to be as effective as one of the most popular prescription antidepressants for treating both moderate and severe depression.

The study is among the first to compare the supplement with a prescription antidepressant. It was funded by the German company that markets the St. John’s Wort product used in the research, and was carried out by the company’s researchers.

Some studies have shown that St. John’s Wort might be useful in treating mild to moderate degrees of depression. However, prior studies have not shown it to be useful in the treatment of major depression.

The researchers treated 251 patients with major depression with either a standard dose of the St. John’s Wort extract (900 milligrams a day) or the antidepressant Paxil (20 milligrams a day). Dosages of their treatment were increased in patients who did not show improvements. Neither the patients nor their physicians knew which treatment was being given.

At the end of six weeks, 71 percent of the patients taking St. John’s Wort and 60 percent of those taking Paxil had responded to treatment. Half of the St. John’s Wort-treated patients and 35 percent of the Paxil-treated patients were free of depression symptoms.

As reported in Webb MD Health