Positive Interactions: St. John’s WortJanuary 7, 2011 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Interactions between medications and nutritional supplements is a frequently cited concern by many health authorities and rightfully so. Part of the earnest trepidation has to do with the unknown effects that may occur when combining various foods, herbs, over-the-counter drugs and the like. The bottom line is that there are so many variables that it’s nearly impossible to predict exactly what will happen in such circumstances. Furthermore, the same holds true for patients who are taking multiple medications at the same time. There simply isn’t a viable way to conduct clinical trials to study every conceivable combination given to patients. But something that’s often lost in the mix is that interactions can also produce positive effects as well.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) tops the list when it comes to potential drug-supplement interactions. This natural antidepressant is a documented inducer of an enzyme known as cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 which can affect the metabolism of a large number of medications. This is why it’s very important to let your pharmacist and physicians know if you’re taking this herbal remedy prior to mixing with other medications or surgical procedures. (1)
Three recent studies point to a completely different sort of interaction that can also occur when utilizing H. perforatum extracts – a health promoting synergistic effect. The latest issue of the journal Fitoterapia reports that emerging in vitro and in vivo evidence indicates that combining St. John’s wort with passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) “significantly enhances the pharmacological potency of Hypericum”. The researchers involved concluded that this “suggests that the antidepressant therapeutic effects of Hypericum are possible with lower doses, when it is combined with Passiflora”. (2)
Another traditional use of H. perforatum is as a topical, anti-inflammatory preparation. A just published trial from Gazi University, Turkey describes that a blend of oils from olives, oregano, sage and St. John’s wort effectively promotes wound healing in an animal model. Other benefits, including bactericidal and fungicidal capacity, were exhibited by the medicinal ointment. Also noteworthy is that the combination of these therapeutic ingredients produced better results than a comparison cream containing only St. John’s wort and olive oil. The current results tend to support the historical use of select essential oils in protecting against skin infections while, at the same time, promoting the healing process. (3)
St. John’s Wort Extract (Hypericin) Is Being Investigated for It’s Anti-Cancer Potential
Source: Int J Mol Sci. 2010; 11(2): 562–594. (a)
Combining St. John’s wort with other floral and plant extracts isn’t a foreign concept to herbalists and natural healers the world over. However combining it with an extract of prawns and celery and using it to manage multiple sclerosis (MS) is certainly thinking “outside the box”. As unusual as it may sound, that’s exactly what a group of Iranian scientists is doing. Preliminary studies in both humans and test animals have found that this “herbal-marine compound” may ” slow down or halt the progression of multiple sclerosis” in an animal model and improve the quality of life of human patients with MS. Additional research and independent corroboration of this experimental medicine needs to be conducted. But it certainly seems to be an item worth following. (4,5,6,7)
This research presented today clearly illustrates what I firmly believe: most foods and herbs aren’t “one trick ponies”. They differ significantly from conventional medications in that these flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, seeds and stems often contain hundreds of (phyto)chemicals. In comparison, most prescriptive drugs are an isolated, synthesized chemical. This is but one reason why natural substances can impact animal and human health in very diverse ways. It’s not magic or just wishful thinking. It’s chemistry. And not all chemistry takes place within the sterile confines of a research laboratory.
Tags: Depression, Multiple Sclerosis, St. John's Wort, Wound
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements