Kelly's St. John's Wort pages for depression

What is the correct dosage?

The normal dosage, according to the original study by the British Medical Journal, is three capsules of St. John's Wort extract per day, 300 mg each, standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin (note: this is a total of 900 mg per day at 0.3% -- too little might not be effective, but some people prefer to start out with a lower dosage anyway or have a smaller body size).  Smaller people might want to only take two capsules, teens should only take one or two, and children (at the advice of a doctor only!) should take no more than one.

Just about every brand labels their product differently. It can be hard to know what you're getting, so you might have to do a little math... for example, if the brand you found is standardized to contain 0.15% hypericin, you'll need to take twice as much. Other brands, you might need to take less. Pay attention to what you're buying, and make sure you take the right amount. More information in my small FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the message forum.

How long does it take to work?

It's different for everybody. You need to give it six weeks for it to work, although many people start to feel better in as soon as a week. Stick to the same brand during the entire period. If it doesn't work for you, you may have to try another brand (a better quality one), because SJW works for most people. But not everyone. If it really doesn't work for you, don't worry there are a number of other natural options like 5-HTP and Rhodiola Rosea that can be just as effective. The most important advice I can offer is to give it time. And treat yourself once you've started taking SJW, as you're on the road to recovery.

If you try SJW, remember that it takes up to six weeks for it to work. If you stop taking it after a week or two, you'll never know if it could have worked for you.

What's a good Brand?

There are now many, many different brands of St. John's Wort (SJW) on the market. Some of them are good quality, some are not. The herbal industry is not regulated like the pharmaceutical industry so they can have poor quality control... the flip-side to this is that you can buy SJW just about anywhere. If you're trying it for the first time, buy the best brand you can find. I have found that most brands work just fine, but some are definitely better than others. If you cheap out and buy the cheapest Wal-Mart brand for example, you're on your own. It might work, it might not. An extra dollar or two can make a big difference if you get a much better quality brand.

That does not mean you have to buy the most expensive brand out there either. If you try St. John's Wort and it doesn't work for you, at least try another brand before giving up. Some of the best brands on the market right now are used by scientists to study SJW and depression, and there have been a few very good scientific studies now. Perika and Kira are good brands to buy. Both have been used in scientific studies! I have no financial interest in either of these or the companies, but I've tried them both... they both work great and have consistent quality. The brands at your local drugstore can work just fine too. You can check out my message forum to see what other brands people have had success with. You don't need to spend a lot of money.

Some bottles of SJW cost as little as $7 for a 20 day supply! Compare that to prescription antidepressants which cost quite a bit more and often aren't any more effective. And St. John's Wort is natural, a plant that grows in the wild. But it still has to be processed properly and packed in air-tight containers that indicate the hypericin and hyperforin levels inside each capsule. Spent that extra few dollars and buy a quality brand, it's still MUCH cheaper than any prescription med.

When should I take it?

That's up to you. Some people experience fatigue as a side-effect, so if you take it at night you can sleep through it. You can take all three capsules at once, or spread the dosage out over breakfast, lunch and supper. I used to take it about an hour before bed and it has made a surprising difference in my energy level. Some people find that it initially makes them tired but that eventually fades. YMMV (your mileage may vary), although I think this is generally common in the prescription antidepressants world as well. If you're having problems, besides picking a quality brand, as per above, try taking it at a different time of day and see if that makes a difference.

What about other "stuff"?

You don't *really* need any other "stuff," though some vitamins can help. Some people have a vitamin deficiency that contributes to their depression. Along with my St. John's Wort, you could take a good multi B vitamin with B6 (to help you dream - sleep is important) and B12 (for stress). Don't overdo it on the B-vitamins as it's not healthy to have too much.

Today, to improve your overall energy level you should ensure that you get lots sunlight, fresh air and exercise. This of course sounds much easier than it is. :-) However, it really does make a difference.

Some people believe in taking other herbs such as Ginkgo Biloba, which is known to increase your blood flow and is thought to increase your energy. But it's not required.

Finally, it can be good to also take a good Omega-3 such as flax seed oil (or fish oil, or evening primrose oil), which is quite good for you in many different ways. You can research much of this stuff in other places, but you probably don't need to take them unless you have a specific requirement to do so. Just like everything, take any or all of the above in moderation -- just because a little does some good, doesn't mean that a whole lot will do any better. Don't overdo the vitamins or Ginkgo lest you be faced with other problems... oh, and too much vitamin B will make you pee a florescent yellow (no kidding), though really this is normal.

Go to the next page (side effects)