St. John's Wort: Good for More than Depression - Somatoform
People with SDs may experience symptoms such as nausea, sexual dysfunction,
widespread pain, and neurological problems like difficulty swallowing and
impaired coordination. These feelings of illness can cause them to spend as
much as one week of every month in bed. People affected by SDs generally do
not seek psychiatric help for their condition; instead, they often see
primary care physicians and specialists. Despite medical testing and expert
opinions confirming no underlying physical ailment, these people have a
strong belief that they are physically sick. Treatment options for SDs are
limited, mainly focusing on improving coping skills. Little is known about
the effectiveness of medications for SD treatment.
Numerous studies have shown (St. John's Wort (SJW) to be effective for
treating mild to moderate depression. Some trials using SJW for depression
have reported an improvement in associated somatic (physical) symptoms. The
current study used several different rating systems to determine SJW's
efficacy for SD treatment in 173 men and women. The participants were
assigned to receive either 300 mg of SJW (standardized to contain 0.3%
hypericin) two times per day, or placebo for six weeks. Assessments of
response to the treatment and side effects were made at two-week intervals
throughout the study.
By all of the rating systems that were used to assess SD symptoms, people
taking SJW had significantly better outcomes than those taking placebo.
Among those participants receiving SJW, 44% reported being completely
improved, compared with only 25% in the placebo group. In contrast, 45% of
the participants in the placebo group felt unchanged or worse compared with
17% in the SJW group. By the end of the study, one half of the participants
taking SJW had improved so much that they were no longer considered to have
SD. The tolerability and safety of SJW was essentially the same as that of
The results of this study indicate that SJW is a safe and effective
treatment for SDs, and confirm similar results of a previous trial. Exactly
how SJW works is not clear, although it does contain compounds that
influence various aspects of human biochemistry. The fact that an herbal
remedy is able to relieve a wide range of physical symptoms that most
doctors consider psychological in nature suggests that SDs are not just "in
See All LifeSource St. John’s Wort Products, Articles, and Studies:
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University
of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr
University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at
South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches
holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on
detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
Healthnotes Newswire (October 21, 2004)-A new study finds that St. John's
wort (SJW) is a helpful treatment for somatoform disorders (SDs), according to
Psychosomatic Medicine (2004;66:538-47). SDs are a group of conditions
characterized by several ongoing physical symptoms that cannot be explained
by any identifiable illness.
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