St. John’s Wort As Effective As Drugs In Treating Depression

A recent study indicates that St. John’s Wort is as effective or more effective than the drug Zoloft for mild to moderate depression and causes fewer side effects than the prescription drug. What’s more, a current review of this herb concluded that it is equally as effective as pharmaceutical antidepressants in treating depression.

The study and the review prove that the findings in two earlier studies, which suggested St. John’s Wort did not help depression, were not the final word on this antidepressant herb and that the dozens of other studies that prove its worthiness in treating depression still hold true.

In the study comparing St. John’s Wort to Zoloft (sertraline), researchers treated 87 men and women suffering from depression with either a standardized extract of St. John’s Wort (300 – 600 mg) three times daily or 50 to 100 mg per day of Zoloft in a double-blind manner. After 12 weeks, the subjects treated with St. John’s Wort experienced a decrease in depression of 50.2% on average while the Zoloft-treated subjects experienced a 41.6% decline.

This was not a statistically significant difference, but the results indicate that St. John’s Wort is as effective as Zoloft and perhaps even more effective. Furthermore, the subjects taking Zoloft experienced more adverse side effects than those who were taking the herb. In fact, the researchers concluded, ‘The more benign side effects of Saint John’s Wort make it a good first choice for this patient population.’

In a review published in July, a reviewer looked at 34 controlled, double-blind trials of St. John’s Wort, tested in roughly 3000 patients suffering from mild to moderate depression. After studying these trials, the reviewer concluded, ‘In the medically supervised treatment of mild to moderate depression, doses of approximately 500-1000 mg of extract per day of these preparations of St. John’s Wort are of comparable efficacy to synthetic antidepressants in their normally prescribed dosages.’


van Gurp G, Meterissian GB, Haiek LN, McCusker J, Bellavance F. St John’s Wort or sertraline? Randomized controlled trial in primary care. Can Fam Physician. 2002 May;48:905-12.

Schulz V. Clinical trials with hypericum extracts in patients with depression–results, comparisons, conclusions for therapy with antidepressant drugs. Phytomedicine. 2002 Jul;9(5):468-74.