St John's Wort and mild depression and compulsive overeating: Success, it seems

This is all total self-diagnosis and self-prescription. But the results seem to have been fairly dramatic, and I’m relating it here as something others in a similar situation may want to look into.

It seems there is fairly good evidence that correctly prepared St. John’s Wort has an effect on mild depression as strong as some prescription anti-depression medications.. That’s per the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, as cited on

So I do, in my own judgment, suffer very mild depressive symptoms.* On a kind of whim I decided to St. John’s Wort a whirl, to see what would happen. Though I am mildly optimistic that I am indeed seeing a corrected mood balance, what has really surprised and pleased me is an effect I wasn’t expecting.

I also have mild compulsive eating problems. Not exactly “food addiction” but things like, I’ll be fully sated, yet see a sign advertising fries and have a very strong urge to pull over and buy some. Embarrassingly, on occasion, I have given in to this very urge. And less egregious givings-in to food compulsions are a part of daily life for me. I cannot be in the room with food without feeling an overwhelming desire to eat it, and I cannot eat only part of what’s on my plate, no matter how strongly I have insisted before hand that “I’ll just eat half of this.” It’s just how it’s always been for me.

I had no idea there may be a connection between SJW and compulsive overeating. But in fact, I noticed a while after beginning taking the extract, that I was no longer craving foods irrationally. I was eating only part of what was on my plate, when it made sense to. I was in the room with food without wanting to eat it. I was in a room next to a room with food without constantly thinking about the food in the other room.

Some of you recognize the thoughts I’m describing, others may think it sounds strange. But this is just how my brain always worked–except, it seems like it doesn’t really anymore!

I looked it up and do find scattered similar reports. No such connection is mentioned at the citation mentioned above, but it is known that compulsive overeating is a coping mechanism for people with some kinds of depression, and it also makes sense that if what’s happening is my serotonin levels are getting corrected, then I no longer would seek the mild pleasure of food as a way to stimulate those serotonin levels.

So anyway, this is just my experience, all based on self-diagnosis and self-treatment, so many grains of salt etc etc. But it’s not poison. And it may be worth a shot if you’re recognizing yourself in my story.

Again: This pertains only to mild depression. Anything more than that and SJW has no effect at all.

  • Family history. Persistent low mood and feelings of sadness. Feelings of worthlessness. And this is not an official symptom but there’s evidence that depressed people tend to interpret neutral or nuanced facial expressions inaccurately–and I have discovered that I do this.

How long have you been taking St John’s Wort?
Have you heard of the placebo effect?

Not very long – two weeks. It seems the research has showed effects starting as early as a week, but more usually on the order of three or four weeks.

Of course I have heard of the placebo effect, and this is part of why I insist in my post on pointing out that this is just one person reporting his own experience. (But note also there’s plenty of good research on it as well.)

But so far I was just, as I said, “mildly optimistic” that I was feeling genuine mood changes. What really made me think I had good justification for thinking it wasn’t mere placebo was the apparent presence of an effect I hadn’t anticipated and had no idea could be connected to the drug–the curtailed food cravings. But sure, even this could be a placebo effect, absolutely. It’s a more surprising placebo effect, but that doesn’t mean it’s even close to impossible that it’s a placebo effect.

Good for you. If it’s working then keep it up. However, you need to be a bit careful with St. John’s Wort as it can react violently with numerous common foods and medications. The link below gives a good run down. Read it carefully. There’s a good chance you’re already eating/drinking something that can react with SJW.

Sorry, I’m not seeing the list of foods you referred to. Am I missing it, or is it at a different URL?

I should add that, as far as I can tell, if you steer clear of the contraindicated substances enumerated in the above link then SJW seems to have a fairly benign side-effect profile. That said, I would still play it safe and let your Dr. know if you haven’t already. Just be careful if he recommends you anything else to take alongside it or instead of it. Make sure it isn’t on the list. I think you need to leave a gap between stopping SJW and starting a contraindicated substance like, say, an SSRI. If memory serves, it’s something like about 2 weeks. Still, if SJW is working for you than I say (in a completely non-medical capacity, username notwithstanding) stick with it. Just listen to your body and be careful. All the best!

Oops, my bad. Try this one:

As you’ll see, none of the foods listed are particularly good for you and it’s perfectly possible to have a good diet without them. Don’t let the length of the list put you off the SJW if it’s working for you. Just be careful and keep an eye on what you eat and you’ll be fine.

The first part of that sentence is certainly debatable.

St. John’s Wort does have some positive effects on moods… however, it causes MANY drug-drug interactions. If it is working for you, feel free to keep using it… However, make sure you mention it to your pharmacist and doctor EVERY time you get a prescription.

St John wart inhibits and activates many different CYP450 enzymes with are the major enzymes that metabolize drugs, so you can end up with WAY too much of a drug in your system, or way too little, depending on the drug. Even things that you don’t think are related in any possible way.

So, it does have some studies showing it does really help… But the drug interactions are a killer (literally). If it works for you, go for it… But make sure you tell your pharmacist EVERY time you are taking st. john’s wort.

My reaction to stress is a mild depression that has an outward sign as extreme irritability. I took SJW for it years ago, and placebo or not, it took off enough of the edge that I credit it with saving my wife’s life. I told my doctor about this, and we experimented with 3-4 different antidepressants, all of which didn’t work as well.

I’ve also been through a round of full blown clinical depression, and wouldn’t dream using SJW for that. IMAO, for the mild depression I used it for, it did work, and I did observe weight control effects. Just don’t rely on it as a miracle diet pill, because it’s not.

What dosage are you taking?

It’s an uncontrolled herbal. By definition, the dosages are random, even from dose to dose.

I don’t think that’s the correct definition of “uncontrolled”.

Though I will say, on checking, it seems the stuff mine is standardized for may not actually be the effective component of the plant. But anyway, while being uncontrolled may make it more likely that dosage is random, it doesn’t make it random “by definition”. For example it could have a very consistent dosage of zero mg :slight_smile:

What brand and dosage are you taking? PM me if you’d rather not post it.

Bravo for finding something that works for you. And for being brave enough to post something positive about an alternative treatment here.

The question I’ve heard asked is whether this says more about SJW’s efficacy or the overall poor performance of current antidepressants.

Moved to IMHO, home of medical threads, from MPSIMS.

I have tried SJW in the past, to no avail. I also tried Kava Kava for anxiety. Nada. Had to get on true antidepressants about 12 years ago and they basically saved my life. I do believe herbal remedies work for some people… but for severe cases, I haven’t heard as many success stories.

I do swear by Valerian Root for sleep however…

Simon Singh has written a book examining most of the “alternative” medicines and practices from a scientific standpoint. Most of these don’t stand up at all. The two that do, however, are chiropractic for low back pain, and St. John’s Wort for mild depression. Here is a question and answer about St. John’s Wort from here:

I have read and can recommend his book “Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine.”