St. John's wort and depression: efficacy, safety and tolerability-an update

Life Sci. 2002 May 17;70(26):3077-96. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(02)01566-7.


St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) is a medicinal plant traditionally used, both externally and internally, in all Europe for many pathologies. Paracelsus named it "arnica of the nerves" because of its empirical use in nervous diseases. In the last two decades many studies have proved the efficacy of some St. John's wort extracts in mild to moderate depression and it has been successful as an antidepressant both in Europe and the US. Its high efficacy and tolerability is unquestionable and from the clinical studies the activity is comparable to other antidepressants while lacking major side effects, making it a safe antidepressant.However, recently its potential to induce the metabolism of co-administered medications has been reported because it may potentate certain enzymes of the cytochrome P450 enzyme system. This resulted in a lowering of serum concentration of a number of concomitant drugs, including warfarin, digoxin, theophylline, cyclosporin, and indinavir. Many drugs and also several common foods and drinks can influence this enzyme system. So, even if its safety has been well established, physicians should be aware that St. John's wort administration might significantly affect other prescribed medicines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypericum*
  • Male
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Safety
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Plant Preparations