I saw Cindy four weeks later, and she was looking much better. There was now a sparkle in her eyes, and she looked directly at me instead of at the floor. "I can't believe it! I feel normal for the first time in a long, long time-maybe ever. After two weeks, I felt like I did during the early stages of Prozac, but with none of the side effects. I can think more clearly now, too. My relationship with my husband is improving daily, and," she added with a smile, "nightly, as well."
Cindy continued to take St. John's wort, reached a plateau of positive feeling and functioning, and got on with her life. She comes to see me periodically and, after more than a year, continues to do well. Her depression is behind her. We have discussed the possibility of decreasing the dose or even discontinuing it, but for now, she would rather let this herbal extract brighten her life than take a chance on having a relapse.
After years of popularity in Europe, St. John's wort has now been recognized in the United States as a valuable tool for treating depression. Inexpensive and available without a prescription, it offers new hope to millions of people.
Dozens of clinical studies have been conducted on St. John's wort (see Chapter 6). More than 5,000 patients have taken part in these investigations, including more than 2,000 in controlled, double-blind studies-experiments in which neither the subject nor the researcher knows who is receiving the actual substance being tested. Time and again, the studies have shown that an average of 70 percent of depressed patients have a significant decrease in symptoms and an increase in feelings of well-being when treated with St. John's wort. This is the same average success rate achieved with the prescription antidepressants, but without the side effects.
The scientific evidence has led to the widespread use of St. John's wort in Germany, where it now accounts for half of all the prescriptions written for depression. Prozac, on the other hand, has only 2 percent of the German market.
St. John's wort's powers are derived from a number of active ingredients. Although initially considered the main active ingredient, current research indicates that the chemical hypericin does not provide the major antidepressant activity of St. John's wort. The hypericin content, however, is used as a convenient reference point when creating standardized extracts.
Bear in mind that depression can be a serious illness that requires medical attention. If you are frequently depressed, you should talk to your family physician or consult a psychiatrist about possible treatment options. This is true even if you are able to function normally at home or at work. You don't have to be bedridden or seriously depressed to need medical help. The secret to successfully treating depression is to uncover and treat both the biochemical and psychological factors that may be keeping you out of balance, so that your natural energy, initiative, and joy can shine forth.
St. John's wort is rapidly becoming the most frequently used antidepressant medication in the world. This safe and effective herb is taken by more than 20 million Germans on a daily basis, and it is recommended by psychiatrists throughout Europe. Now, Americans have awakened to its enormous potential.
Knowledge is vital to establishing control and positive direction in your life.
In the following pages, you'll learn about the various psychological, nutritional, and medical factors that are involved in treating depression, and the role of St. John's wort in such treatment. You will receive detailed information on the proper dosages to take, and you will find out about the studies that have confirmed the herb's effectiveness around the world. You'll also see how St. John's wort fares when compared with the prescription antidepressants.