There’s no question that mood disorders take a large toll on the well-being of your patients.
Conditions such as depression or anxiety can affect their work and personal lives. In fact, data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication (NCS-R) shows that an estimated 10 percent of US adults reported suffering from a mood disorder within the previous 12 months.
Furthermore, women showed a higher prevalence for mood disorders (11.6 percent) than did men (7.7 percent).1,2
These numbers clearly show that mood disorders can greatly affect your patients. However, they can have an even greater impact upon your patients from an economic perspective.
According to a 2016 article from the journal EMBO Report, global direct and indirect costs from mental disorders were estimated at US $2.5 trillion, with indirect costs (US $1.7 trillion) taking up the majority of this total amount.3
Furthermore, these economic losses were projected to reach US $16.3 trillion by 2030. Given these soaring costs associated with mood disorders, it would seem to make sense that natural vitamins or supplements could be an excellent alternative to standard pharmaceuticals, which can have their own dangers in terms of undesirable side effects.
There is a growing body of evidence pointing to St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) as just such an alternative.
Studies of St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is probably the most popular herb for treating mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. It is grown in almost every state in the US, which may be part of the reason for its popularity.
A 2000 study from International Clinical Psychopharmacology reported on comparing St. John’s wort to Prozac (fluoxetine), which has been the most popular antidepressant medication in the US for more than a decade.4 A group of 240 patients were randomized to take either St. John’s wort or 250 mg Prozac daily and then followed for six weeks.
At the end of the study period, those taking the herb scored significantly better on standardized tests of depression levels and symptoms than did those patients taking Prozac. Furthermore, the safety profile for St. John’s wort was found to be substantially better than for Prozac, with incidences of adverse events of 8 percent and 23 percent, respectively.4
Overall, the researchers concluded that, while St. John’s wort and Prozac showed relatively similar rates of potency, the herb was far better than Prozac in terms of safety. A study from the same year, in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, studied St. John’s wort for treating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which may be related to anxiety.5
For this study, 12 patients with OCD were given 450 mg of St. John’s wort twice daily for 12 weeks. Evaluations were conducted every week. Significant changes were seen throughout the course of the study, even starting at week 1. At the end of the study, five of the 12 patients (42 percent) were rated as “very much,” or “much” improved.
Depression or anxiety can compound your patients’ other health issues, and they may be worried about the side effects of standard psychiatric medications. Fortunately, St. John’s wort may offer them both relief from symptoms, as well as fewer adverse side effects.
1.Harvard Medical School 2007, National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), 2007. Table 2: 12-month prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort. Retrieved from https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/index.php. Accessed Dec. 21, 2018.
2. Harvard Medical School, 2007. National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). Table 1: Lifetime prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort. Retrieved from https://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/index.php. Accessed Dec. 21, 2018.
3. Trautmann S, Rehm J, Wittchen HU. The economic costs of mental disorders: Do our societies react appropriately to the burden of mental disorders? EMBO Report 2016;17(9):1245-1249.
4. Schrader E. Equivalence of St. John’s wort extract (Ze 117) and fluoxetine: A randomized controlled study in mild-moderate depression. International Clinical Psychopharmacology 2000;15(2):61-68.
5. Taylor LH, Kobak KA. An open-label trial of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2000;61:575-578.