THE POLITICS AND ECONOMICS OF ST JOHN’S WORT: AWAITING FURTHER RESEARCH

Should we reserve judgement about the effectiveness of St John’s Wort pending the conclusion of the latest studies ?

There does not seem to be much merit in this argument. In the use of St John’s Wort to treat depression, the Europeans have been leaders for over 350 years. Since the publication of Commission E in Germany in the mid-1980s, St John’s Wort has been actively studied there. A high-strength preparation of Hypericum was developed in Germany and when it was tested at a dosage of 900 mg per day was found to be superior to placebo in multiple controlled studies. While each of these studies may be flawed or limited in one way or another, taken together they portray a convincing picture of an active anti-depressant. While a large US multi-centre study such as the one currently being planned under the aegis of the National Institute of Mental Health, is likely to add valuable new information to our current knowledge, it is not in my opinion a necessary step in proving the anti-depressant efficacy of the herb. In addition, if we wait several years until the results of the US multi-centre study have been analysed and presented, many depressed people who might stand to benefit from the herbal anti-depressant in the meanwhile will suffer unnecessarily. Many people have already voted with their feet and decided to go ahead and try St John’s Wort. I believe they are justified in doing so.

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