Magazine article Drug Topics

Study May Have Identified St. John's Wort's Power Source

Magazine article Drug Topics

Study May Have Identified St. John's Wort's Power Source

Article excerpt

New research in Germany may have identified one of the active ingredients in St. John's wort. A randomized, double-blind, placebocontrolled, multicenter European study suggested that hyperforin, found almost exclusively in the reproductive organs of the plant, may be responsible for the therapeutic effect of the herb in patients with mild to moderate depression. St. John's wort is one of the most widely prescribed and recommended herbal products in Europe and the United States.

"Previous clinical studies have shown St. John's wort to be effective in mild to moderate depression," Derrick DeSilva Jr., M.D., told the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians in San Francisco. "But questions remained about the identity of the active component and how it relates to efficacy. These studies help answer those questions." DeSilva is an internist and an instructor at JFK Medical Center in Edison, N.J., and publisher of a consumer book on herbs and nutritional supplements (Ask the Doctor: Herbs and Supplements for Better Health, Interweave Press, 1997). He hosts a weekly radio program on the same subject.

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforaturn) has a long history in European and American folk medicine as a calming agent. Physicians in Germany wrote more than 3.7 million Rxs for the yellow-flowered plant in 1997; it holds 25% of the antidepressant market, according to professor Gregor Laakmann, director of the Psychiatric Clinic at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. …

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