St John's Wort and Depression: Is It Right for You?

  • St John's Wort is one of the more well known herbs, highly touted as the herb for depression.

Rightly so, as it has been studied quite a bit.

But is this the best herb for depression out there?

Yes....and no.

St John's Wort works great for those with mild depression. It is recognized as safe for longer term use. It works synergistically with Lemon balm so formulas containing both herbs make for a great remedy for those who need it.

It is an herb we use in our home...for nerve pain from a bulged disk, to sore muscles, and helping with sleep (infused oil). It is such an amazing herb.

The photosensitivity from taking St John's wort is rare but often turns people off from the herb.

However...

St John's Wort...and how it acts on a liver enzyme...will interact with several medications, to include: birth control, antibiotics, blood thinners, and more. It can make them less effective OR more effective...depending on the pharmaceutical. So if you are taking other medication, it might be smart to look for other options, which I discuss later in this post.

It isn't a one size fits all herb for depression. Many times people are depressed because of other physical causes...like adrenal fatique...leaky gut...heavy metal exposure. While St John's Wort could be beneficial for these people, they need to heal the cause in able to get better.

This is one reason why, if you are wanting to treat your depression naturally, you need to consult with an herbalist. Its also a reason why doctors need to stop just prescribing antidepressants when someone comes with symptoms and then calling them "good." Its a sad thing because antidepressants can cause some serious issues...especially long term.

Thankfully, we can work with a few different classifications of herbs to help with depression, to help with adrenal fatigue, to help with gut issues and heavy metal exposure.

I am going to briefly talk about two categories that work extremely well for most people. Of course, if you are allergic to these herbs, please don't take them.

Nervines

These herbs work on the nervous system. They can be relaxing, stimulating, and sedative in nature. They are really amazing herbs and I am thankful for them.

My favorite nervines for anxiety (which often accompanies depression) are:

  • Lemon balm
  • Valerian
  • Blue vervain
  • Oats
  • Skullcap
  • Catnip
  • Passionflower - particularly great for women

Enjoy these in a tea or tincture some and use as needed (some can be used as part of a daily herbal protocol).

Adaptogens

This is seriously an amazing classification of herbs. These herbs have an overall tonic effect on the body and helps up to adapt to stress (or change) in our environment. Of course, the definition is way more in depth than that so if you want to learn more...read "Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief" by David Winston

Each adaptogen has its strength, so I recommend talking with an herbalist (or reading David Winston's book) because deciding on which one is right for you.

Popular ones include

  • Ashwagandha
  • Astragalus
  • Licorice
  • Ginseng

There, of course, is also the mind-body-spirit connection. Many people are depressed because they hurt physically somewhere (and vice versa). Many people are depressed because they work in a job that leaves them unhappy or unfulfilled. Our elders get depressed because our society doesn't value their input and they lose a sense of purpose.

This connection needs to be honored.

Daily:

  • Take care of yourself and wear clothes that make you smile (do this even when you don't always feel like it)
  • Tell yourself you are handsome/beautiful/smart...whatever you need to hear
  • Take a walk outside
  • Journal
  • Go to bed at a good time
  • Hug someone for at least 15 seconds

Weekly:

  • Enjoy a full bath with Epsom salts
  • Do something you enjoy...craft, hobby (ideally you would do this every day but at least once a week is a great start)
  • Have sex
  • Go for a longer walk
  • Read a good book

Monthly:

  • Massage!
  • Get together with friends and enjoy a meal together (at home or at a restaurant).
  • Try something new (like a new hobby, new restaurant, new genre of movie etc)

Now, I completely understand how hard it is to do this when you are depressed. I have been there. I had depression as a teen and had postpartum depression with two of my four births. It is hard...sometimes you need someone to "make" you do it (after a conversation with them and you feel they will be loving and respectful at the same time).

You deserve to feel good...

because you are awesome.