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May 8, 2010

The following comes from Nancy Beckham's book, "Nature's Super Foods".
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'Wort' is the old English name for herb.
The plant is native to Europe, and a number of regions in the northern hemisphere, but it has been introduced into America, New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately it can spread rapidly, and is declared a noxious weed in some Australian states. It is toxic to grazing animals, and cows, in particular, can develop a red, itchy, flaky skin condition, which can advance into slow-healing raw areas.
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BACKGROUND
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From the time of the ancient Greeks and throughout the Middle Ages St John's wort has been part of herbal folklore. People used to say that red spots appeared on the plant on the day that St John the Baptist was beheaded, and in Europe it eas hung over house doorways or was put under the pillow for protection against evil spirits.
  St John's wort was recommended for all respiratory and bladder complaints, diarrhoea, bleeding, jaundice and nervous depression. In the 1973 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia this herb was specifically recommended for menopausal neurosis, also for painful nerve problems such as sciatica, fibrositis and neuralgia. It was also a popular external remedy. Many of the traditional uses are supported by modern scientific investigations.
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THERAPEUTIC USE
Internal
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St John's wort possesses properties that are antiviral, antidepressant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antianxiety, wound healing and mild antibacterial. It is a gentle tonic with analgesic properties, and anticancer potential.
  For the treatment of mild to moderate depressive disorders, St John's wort is as effective as pharmaceuticals, but with far fewer side effects. (87)
  An assessment of 12 clinical trials confirmed that St John's wort was superior to a placebo, and its therapeutic effects were similar to those of pharmaceutical antidepressants. There was a low incidence of adverse effects and overdosing compared to pharmaceuticals. (88)
  Most of the trials on depression have been in Europe, using a daily dosage of up to 4.5g standardised herbal product containing 1-27 mg hypericin (probably the most therapeutically active component relating to the nervous system). When people are depressed they are usually lethargic, and do not have the motivation to do anything. Treatment with this herb can gently motivate depressed people.
  In cold climates some people experience seasonal affective disorder because of lack of exposure to light during long winters. The symptoms are depression, insomnia, fatigue with restlessness, increased appetite and sugar cravings. A study showed that St John's wort helped this condition just as much as 'light therapy'. Of course, we should all get at least a little sunlight exposure because it is necessary for good health.
 St John's wort is also helpful for anxiety and insomnia, and acts as a gentle tonic. I sometimes add it into formulas for menopausal sumptoms. In a study on healthy people St John's wort was shown to have a soothing effect; brain function was stimulated and performance tests under stress were enhanced. (89)
  This reinforces the concept of traditional herbalists who have categorised some herbs as nervine tonics (the capacity to calm the nervous system without causing fatigue).
  St John's wort is likely to relieve certain types of viral infections, including AIDS, herpes, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B, and some types of colds, and possibly some strains of influenza.
  Since 1989 a number of informal studies with HIV-positive people have been done using St John's wort, and the patient outcomes have been favourable. A report presented at the 1993 International AIDS Conference indicated that a long-term clinical trial resulted in 14 out of 16 patients remaining clinically stable, and able to maintain their normal lifestyle and work. No serious viral infections were experienced, nor were any adverse effects encountered. In most of these patients some very specific immune cells were improved. This suggests benefits to the immune system generally St John's wort may be therapeutically useful in many diseases that are linked to low immune functioning.  
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External
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 - skin-healing; accelerates wound healing and new skin growth;
 - external creams or compresses for nerve pain, inflammation;
 - oil used for dry skin, especially in older people; mix the oil into a plain base e.g. aqueous cream.
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CAUTIONS AND ADVERSE EFFECTS
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Some books warn that St John's wort can cause phototoxicity (sensitivity to sunlight), leading to skin discoloration and damage. This is based on experience with animals grazing on the plant. However, (one) report claims that a dose 30x above normal would be required to cause skin reddening in a human. I have only ever heard of one anecdotal report of such a reaction in a human.
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People with severe depression and serious infectious diseases should always be under the supervision of a medical practitioner, and should always tell their practitioner if they are self-treating with any remedies.
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If you are taking antianxiety or antidepressant medication, never add St John's wort or other natural nervous system remedies, unless guided by your practitioner.
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In recent times there have been a few reports from practising herbalists of various adverse effects, and this confirms my experience that some batches of this herb may contain more of certain components, which may be causing sensitivity or allergic reactions.
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KNOWN THERAPEUTIC COMPONENTS
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Hypericin, pseudohypericin - antiretroviral; synthetic hypericin - available in some countries, may not have any antiviral activity. (90)
 - hypericin - capable of reducing biological compounds in the brain (such as monoamine oxidase) that are implicated as possible causes of depression. (91)
Flavonoids - in general, flavonoids can have wide-ranging benefits; majority have special affinity to blood vessel walls and connective tissue - these may protect the brain from circulating toxins; some flavonoids may help brain chemistry; others have antimicrobial activity; the proanthocyanidins are antioxidants. (92)
Hyperforin - antidepressant, relaxant, nervous system
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ST JOHN'S WORT SKIN OIL
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100 g fresh St John's wort flowers (or 50 g dried)
200 ml almond oil (or sunflower, apricot kernel or olive oil)
6 capsules vitamin E (as an antioxidant)
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1. Place the flowers in a clear glass jar, and pour the oil over. Cut the vitamin E caps, and squeeze out the oil into the jar.
2. Leave to stand in the sunshine, with the lid on.
3. After 6-8 weeks the oil should be reddish in colour. Strain the liquid into a dark bottle or jar, and seal before storing in a cool dry place. Label jar to show that this oil should be used within 3 months.
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Apply the oil undiluted on minor wounds and herpes; or gently massage it into areas of joint or nerve pain.
 If you use it for household burns, wait until the heat has gone out of the injury first.
 Can be used for dry skin by mixing it into an aqueous cream - can stain clothes and linen.
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DOSAGES, DURATION OF TREATMENT
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For serious infection or depression, obtain standardised extracts, take dosage as advised by health practitioner. You may need to take the remedy for 2 or more months, and subsequently at a lower dose or intermittently.
 Usual dose is 2-4 g daily of dried herb, or 2-4 ml of a liquid extract.
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The following was taken from About.com "Newest Developments for..."
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Klaus Linde of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research at Technical University in Munich, Germany, found that St. John's Wort is more effective than both placebo and antidepressants in treating severe depression
  Germany had the best results with regard to effectiveness as opposed to 28 other countries. German doctors have already been prescribing St. John's Wort as their standard treatment of medication for depression for years. Currently, the herb is unregulated, so it is found in varying qualities and content.
  In the study, between 500 and 1,200 mg were used.
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Posted: May 8, 2010 8:59am

 

 
 
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