Siegfried Gursche, MH
One of my most favourite herbs is St
One of my most favourite herbs is St. John’s wort. It is a powerful botanical medicine. I was introduced to it during the Second World War when my mother experienced depression and a nervous breakdown due to many alarm-interrupted and sleepless nights. Our naturopathic doctor prescribed St. John’s wort, and my mother recovered in a convalescence home. I was put into an orphanage and one of our tasks was to collect wild growing herbs in the fields and along the roads. I enjoyed it, though gathering just the bright yellow flowers was painstakingly slow.
Later, my mother taught me how St. John’s wort works and how effective it is, especially in combination with valerian. “In order to strengthen and heal,” she said, “nerves need to be calmed. This is what valerian does. It’s the opposite of coffee, which is a stimulant.”
St. John’s wort strengthens the nerves only when they are calmed! That’s folk medicine.
Today, St. John’s wort is a well-researched herb with many documented case studies proving its effectiveness in mild, moderate and even severe cases of depression. It is the herb of choice! It can withstand any comparison to modern synthetic chemical antidepressants and will always come up tops in terms of tolerance and the least amount of side-effects.
St. John’s wort has a solid place, both in the practice of naturopathic professionals and for self-medication. In Germany, St. John’s wort is an approved treatment for mild and moderate depression and outsells pharmaceutical drugs such as Prozac by 20 to one.
Rising Depression Rates
Statistics show that depression is on the increase. In 1997, about five per cent of North Americans suffered from depression. That’s only five years ago. After Sept. 11, 2001 this rate has increased to more than 20 percent.
My nephew and his wife are professional massage therapists and practise in an affluent area. They told me that the majority of their patients are on prescription antidepressants, most of which have side-effects. Restlessness, headaches, nervousness and insomnia are very common.
Yet these are the very symptoms that St. John’s wort works best at healing. Other side-effects of antidepressants are diarrhea, gastric-intestinal irregularity, sexual dysfunction and appetite loss. It’s a pity that patients aren’t told about St. John’s wort, which is safe and has no known side-effects.
The Soul in Distress
Depression is terrible. People suffering from it feel that there is little meaning to life and no hope. Deep down there is a black empty hole, no joy. The future looks bleak! What are the causes?
All of us experience the blues at one time or another. Happy-go-lucky personalities shake off these feelings, but the more pessimistic people don’t take unhappiness that easily. Everything negative is intense and long-lasting. Economic factors and deep disappointments are at the forefront. Bad relationships, financial problems, worthlessness and especially suppressed emotions such as anxiety, anger and guilt can make a person depressive.
Depressed people have lost all hope for the future and don’t reach out for help, either. One of my mentors, Dr. Brauchle, said, “At that stage it takes the effort of two people–one that heals and the other that wants to be healed. However, to get the latter to bring up the willpower is most difficult.” Therefore, symptoms of mild and moderate depression should not be overlooked and left untreated.
St. John’s wort has an uplifting effect on the soul (psyche). A great number of St. John’s wort preparations are listed in European pharmacopoeia for a wide variety of conditions. Most of these conditions are psychosomatic in nature; that is, they are somehow interdependent on the psyche and the nervous system. Women and young girls alike benefit greatly from St. John’s wort when suffering from premenstrual syndrome. St. John’s wort also increases blood circulation and enhances brain power.
Many of the European herbal teas and juices, capsules and tinctures have been imported and are available in Canadian health food stores. Many reputable Canadian manufacturers have recently formulated some excellent products in tinctures, oils and herbal capsules.
When you take these products, you need to know that herbal medicine always takes a little longer to act than their pharmaceutical counterparts for the same condition. And remember to take calming herbs such as valerian, kava or hops when starting treatments with St. John’s wort, and to cut out any stimulants such as coffee, tea or alcohol.
Why St. John’s Wort Works
Science has always been interested in finding the single effective constituent in herbal medicine. Once known, it’s probably easy to duplicate it chemically and put a patent on it. St. John’s wort makes it difficult for the scientist because there are so many ingredients that work synergistically: bitters, choline, oils, rutin, the flavonoid hypericin and many more.
Quercitin and xanthones are the known antidepressant factors. But the most important medicinal ingredient is the colouring agent hypericin, which was discovered in 1891, yet remains a mystery to this day. We still don’t know how colouring agents work to inhibit cancer cells (e.g., lycopene from red beets and tomatoes). All we know is that hypericin, which gives St. John’s wort oil the intense red colour, acts on the wounded soul and has a healing effect on the nervous system.