St. John’s Wort Vitamins Hastings NE
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North Platte, NE
St. John's Wort: Has the Flower Lost Its Power?
By Catherine Guthrie
By the mid-1990s, St. John’s wort’s reputation as a mood mender had jumped the pond. After spreading good vibes across Europe for centuries, the plant with the perky yellow blooms had finally caught on in America. In 2001, folks in this country spent $105 million on St. John’s wort capsules, teas, and tinctures, making it the seventh best-selling single herb in the United States.
Then came the headlines. Results of a much-anticipated study last spring labeled the herb a colossal loser, reversing decades of positive research. In one fell swoop, St. John’s wort went from wonder plant to herbal has-been.
The news was particularly distressing for the nearly 10 million Americans who suffer from depression, many of whom have come to rely on St. John’s wort for relief. Should they toss their St. John’s wort in the trash—or hold out until the next study comes along? After all, most drugs and supplements see their share of ups and downs, all of which are dutifully reported by the press. Could this simply be a time to wait for the pendulum to swing the other way?
In fact, a closer look at the study suggests it’s definitely worth giving St. John’s wort another chance. Here’s the story behind the story.
Over the past 20 years, experts in Europe had put the herb through the scientific wringer. One of the most comprehensive studies was a 1996 review of 23 clinical trials, in which the authors praised the herb’s effectiveness in treating mild to moderate depression. Because of this consensus, and the fact that the herb was starting to fly off the shelves in this country, scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided it was time to to suss out the remedy for themselves. That’s the study that got all the press last spring.
During this double-blind study, 340 adults suffering from major depression were randomly assigned to down daily doses of either Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort’s official name), sertraline (the prescription antidepressant Zoloft), or a placebo. Participants’ moods were measured weekly or biweekly with a series of questionnaires. At the end of eight weeks, researchers turned up no significant difference between those swallowing St. John’s wort and their placebo-popping counterparts.
Media devoured the news that the much-hyped St. John’s wort fared no better than sugar pills in treating depression. But buried beneath the avalanche of sound bites was the fact that the control, Zoloft, also failed to best the placebo. Yet no one labeled Zoloft ineffective.
So what does it mean if no one gets happy? Unfortunately, this is not unusual. Depression is notoriously tough to study. Many people who volunteer for depression studies have already tried medication without success; scientists call them “nonresponders.” For this reason, among others, up to 35 percent of prescription antidepressants fail to outperform placebos in clinical trials.
The inclusion of Zoloft in the recent study was standard r...
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