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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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4. Preventing Osteoporosis

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

CHAPTER 4

O

ne out of every four postmenopausal women will be faced with a diagnosis of osteoporosis, and more than 45,000 women will die this year from injuries related to weakened bones, such as fractures of the hip and spine. Equally tragic is the crippling loss of mobility that occurs with osteoporosis. There are a number of specific risk factors that predispose a woman to osteoporosis, including heredity. But while you cant control your genetic heritage, you can control the other risk factors that contribute to bone loss.

Excessive alcohol or caffeine intake

High phosphorus intake

High protein or sodium diet

Lack of vitamin D

Low calcium intake

Menopause

Sedentary lifestyle

Smoking

Thin build, particularly for those of Northern European or Asian descent

Bones are dense, hard structures, but they are continually in the process of being broken down and recreated. Your bones are a storehouse for calcium in your body, a mineral that is vital for a variety of essential body processes. Calcium reserves are drawn upon to keep bones and teeth strong, to regulate heartbeat and muscle contractions, to transmit nerve impulses, and to aid in blood clotting.

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6. How St. John's Wort Can Help You

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

CHAPTER 6

HOW ST. JOHN’S WORT CAN HELP YOU

Not only is St. John’s wort a popular treatment for mild to moderate depression, but it can also be helpful for anxiety, sleep disorders, the mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

A quick recap of depression: People suffering from depressive disorders have an imbalance of specific brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. This imbalance causes a variety of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Physically, these symptoms manifest as changes in sleep, appetite, and energy. Emotionally, the person may feel a sense of hopelessness, irritability, or a lack of interest in work, socializing, or hobbies. And mentally, the person may have difficulties concentrating or making decisions. St. John’s wort has proven helpful for alleviating all of these symptoms. As a result, this herb is highly regarded as an alternative to conventional medications for depressive disorders.

St. John’s wort plays a prominent role in European herbal medicine, particularly in Germany, where doctors prescribed almost 66 million daily doses of the herb in 1994 for psychological disorders. St. John’s wort is clearly the treatment of choice for depressive disorders in Germany—physicians there prescribe extracts of the herb twenty times more often than they do Prozac.

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7. How to Buy and Use Nutritional Supplements

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

CHAPTER 7

I

t seems that new research appears almost daily regarding the benefits of dietary nutrients, supplements, and herbs and their role in maintaining health. Theres no question that dietary supplements make an important contribution to optimal well-being. But choosing between the vast array of products available can be confusing. In reading this book, youve learned about the supplements that are best suited to your particular needs. Now, you need information that will enable you to buy and use supplements with confidence.

First, its important to address the question of whether you need to take supplements at all. Unless you live in a pristine environment, eat a perfectly balanced organic diet, get just the right amount of exercise and rest, and are under no stress, then the answer is yessupplements are a good idea. We live in a world that has a greater number of chemical toxins than ever before in history, and the quality of our air, soil, and water has been seriously compromised. In general, the nutrient content of most foods is diminished because were not getting food fresh from the gardeninstead, its transported across the country, and sometimes across the world, losing nutrients in the process.

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2. Understanding and Diagnosing Depression

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

CHAPTER 2

UNDERSTANDING AND DIAGNOSING DEPRESSION

Occasional feelings of sadness in response to life situations and disappointments are a normal part of being human. Losing a job, moving and leaving behind friends, relationship difficulties, children leaving home, a serious or chronic illness, or the death of a loved one all can bring on feelings of sadness and loss. However, these passing states, although commonly labeled as depression, are very different from the serious illness known as a depressive disorder.

Sadness versus Depression

Distinguishing between normal feelings of sadness and clinical depression is an important first step in recognizing and treating a depressive disorder. It can be a challenging task, because the fluctuating moods that are typical of everyday life can make differentiating between normal and abnormal challenging. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists diagnose someone as being clinically depressed if the person has had at least five specific symptoms of depression for at least two weeks, or if the symptoms have significantly impaired the person’s ability to function at work, at school, or in relationships. (In the next chapter, you’ll find out more about these specific symptoms.)

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