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11. How to Buy and Use St. John’s Wort

Vukovic M.S.W., Laurel Basic Health Publications ePub

CHAPTER 11

HOW TO BUY AND USE ST. JOHN’S WORT

St. John’s wort is a top-selling herb and is widely available in natural food stores and pharmacies. Choosing among the dozens of St. John’s wort products can be confusing. In this chapter, you will learn how to identify good-quality products and understand the differences among the various herbal formulations. With this information, you will be able to make an informed decision that will help you choose a product that best meets your needs. You will also learn how to take St. John’s wort and the dosages that are most effective.

Please note that if you are suffering from anything other than very mild depression, you should be working with a health professional who can provide you with appropriate support and guidance.

Finding an Effective Supplement

There can be a vast difference in the way that St. John’s wort is grown, harvested, and processed. As a result, there can be significant differences in the quality of commercial St. John’s wort products. While some products are good sources of the beneficial compounds that make St. John’s wort so effective, others may contain little or none of the active ingredients. While all parts of the plant contain some degree of plant chemicals, the flower buds of St. John’s wort contain the highest concentrations of the active ingredients.

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8. Alleviate Depression with Diet and Exercise

Vukovic M.S.W., Laurel Basic Health Publications ePub

CHAPTER 8

ALLEVIATE DEPRESSION WITH DIET AND EXERCISE

It’s not news that nutrition has a direct effect on your physical well-being, as many studies over the past few decades have proven. Heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes are a few of the many diseases that have been shown to be directly affected by diet. But many people are unaware that food choices also play a significant role in emotional and mental well-being.

Eat Right to Combat Depression

Nutrition affects not only your daily moods, but is also a factor in the onset and progression of depression. Your brain requires an adequate and steady supply of nutrients and quickly shows signs of stress when your diet is inadequate. While people vary somewhat in their dietary needs, the following guidelines are usually helpful for most people who suffer from mood swings and depression.

Keeping blood sugar levels balanced is essential for those who are prone to depression. The brain and nervous system are highly sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations. In addition, keeping blood sugar stable ensures a constant supply of energy for the body, which helps to prevent fatigue. To keep blood sugar levels on an even keel, avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, which are quickly converted to sugar in the body. Obviously, desserts and sweets are usually loaded with sugar, but other foods such as salad dressings and dry cereals often contain large amounts of sweeteners.

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7. Scientific Support for St. John’s Wort

Vukovic M.S.W., Laurel Basic Health Publications ePub

CHAPTER 7

SCIENTIFIC SUPPORT FOR ST. JOHN’S WORT

The benefits of St. John’s wort compared to pharmaceutical prescription drugs have been clearly demonstrated in a number of well-designed clinical studies. A handful of these studies are outlined here to give you an idea of the scientific support for St. John’s wort.

Not only has the herb been found to be as effective as prescription drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft, but it also has far less incidence of side effects, and the side effects that do occur, such as dry mouth, tend to be minor. Other studies that you will find mentioned in this chapter include the usefulness of St. John’s wort for treating depression in children, and the beneficial effects of St. John’s wort on premenstrual depression and menopause in women.

Why Doctors Prescribe Drugs

Unfortunately, even with the numerous studies that demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of St. John’s wort for treating mild to moderate depression, many physicians continue instead to prescribe drugs. There are several possible reasons for this. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars advertising their antidepressant drugs, including ads in the popular media, which influence not only what physicians prescribe, but also what patients request from their doctors. In addition, pharmaceutical companies are generally not interested in researching botanical medicines because they would have difficulties obtaining a patented formula. And the fact that herbal remedies are widely available over the counter in natural food stores and pharmacies significantly limits marketing potential, sales, and income for pharmaceutical manufacturers.

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6. Preventing Heart Disease

Vukovic M.S.W., Laurel Basic Health Publications ePub

CHAPTER 6

M

any people still have the misconception that heart disease is something that happens primarily to men. Its true that women are fortunate in having the natural heart-protective effects of estrogen prior to menopause. Estrogen helps to keep coronary arteries flexible, and also plays an important role in keeping cholesterol levels low. But during and after menopause, when estrogen levels naturally decline, the risk of heart disease for women increases dramatically. After menopause, women are more likely than men to be stricken with heart disease. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women, affecting one out of every three women over the age of sixty-five.

Recent studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy, which was long thought to provide cardiovascular protection for postmenopausal women, does not help to prevent heart disease, and is probably a bad idea for women who have a prior history of heart disease. A four-year study of 2,763 postmenopausal women with a history of heart disease, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998, revealed that hormone replacement therapy increased cardiac risk during the first year of use. As a result, the American Heart Association recently recommended against hormone replacement therapy for the prevention of heart disease by women with a history of cardiovascular disease. As for healthy postmenopausal women, the association says there is insufficient evidence to indicate that hormone replacement therapy prevents heart disease.

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5. Conventional Treatments for Depression

Vukovic M.S.W., Laurel Basic Health Publications ePub

CHAPTER 5

CONVENTIONAL TREATMENTS FOR DEPRESSION

If you think that you or someone you care about is suffering from depression, the first step is to see a doctor for a thorough examination. It’s important to rule out physical conditions that can mimic depression. For example, a lingering viral infection can cause fatigue, lethargy, and other symptoms associated with depression. If your doctor finds no physical reason for your symptoms, the next step is to consult a psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist who can evaluate your symptoms and make a diagnosis.

Diagnosing Depression

During a psychological evaluation, you can expect to be asked about the history of your depression, including the symptoms you are experiencing, when they began, and if you have ever suffered from depression in the past. A thorough evaluation will also include questions about drug and alcohol use, any family history of depressive disorders, and previous treatments you may have received for depression. It’s important to distinguish between situational depression, which is related to external events such as the loss of a spouse or other stressful life situations, and endogenous depression, which arises internally and is independent of life stressors.

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