Adverse effects profile of the herbal antidepressant St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.)

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1998 Oct;54(8):589-94. doi: 10.1007/s002280050519.


This paper provides a systematic review of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) associated with the use of extracts of the herb St. John's wort (Hypericum perfbratum L.) for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

Methods: Searches of four computerized literature databases were performed for records of (ADRs). Manufacturers of hypericum products, the international drug monitoring centre of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the national drug safety monitoring bodies of Germany and the United Kingdom were also contacted for information.

Results: Information on (ADRs) originates from case reports, clinical trials, post-marketing surveillance and drug monitoring studies. Collectively, the data suggest that hypericum is well tolerated, with an incidence of adverse reactions similar to that of placebo. The most common adverse effects are gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness/confusion and tiredness/sedation. A potential serious adverse effect is photosensitivity, but this appears to occur extremely rarely.

Conclusions: Hypericum has an encouraging safety profile. However, as most of the current data originate from short-term investigations, more long-term studies are desirable.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Ericales / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Photosensitizing Agents / adverse effects*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Plant Extracts