How You Can Use St John’s Wort For Depression


Everyone suffers from mood issues in their life, be it anxiety or depression, the severity just differs. But these issues can be debilitating and we wanted to let you know about some different ways you can use plants to help. The use of St John's wort for depression is not only extremely well studied, it has been shown to have the same effects as antidepressants - just without the side effects. But is it right for you? Read on to learn more about how you can use this wonderful plant for all things mood.

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What is St John's wort used for?

As with many plants, it's the plant's complexity that makes them so powerful and helpful - it cannot be reduced to a couple of constituents. Instead, they all work synergistically. As well as using St John's wort for depression, people also use it for its other qualities:

Vulnerary - St John's wort helps accelerate skin and body healing, particularly with bruises and bumps. It helps with scarring and pain associated with scars. 

Healthy skin - St John's wort helps to accelerate skin cell regeneration which helps with supporting healthy skin.

Anti-viral - Topical St John's wort can help when you feel that first tingle of a cold sore. It can also be taken internally to help reduce the outbreak or as prevention.

Nervine - Sciatica, shingles and nerve damage all give nerve pain. St John's wort can help to calm nerve irritation and intense pain. In the late 1800s it was used for spinal injuries and is still used in this area today. Oil-based preparations work especially well with nerve pain. We use St John's wort in our Golden Skin Oil.

The list of things St John's wort can help with doesn't end there. This herb is an analgesic, astringent, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, and antidepressant. St John's antidepressant qualities are what we will focus on in this blog.

What are the side effects of antidepressants?

As a herbal company, we have a deep love and respect for plants and the traditional use of plants to support families and health. But we also have a genuine appreciation for modern medicine and our allopathic medical practitioners. At no stage are we advocating for not utilising our medical system when you need it, particularly with mental health.

In saying that - sometimes there are side effects from medications that are not pleasant. Studies have highlighted that as many as 38% of people who take antidepressants report side effects. Many people report side effects such as;

  • Sleeplessness
  • Issues with sexual functioning
  • Weight gain 
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Sometimes these symptoms may be transient as you get used to the medication and may disappear, but for others, they stick around, making things quite difficult. For those that have more pronounced symptoms, it can make them question taking antidepressants. This is where a side effect free alternative - like using St John's wort for depression - might be an option you want to explore.

When should you try St John's wort for depression?

If you have noticed that you are feeling a little down or know that your mood has changed and you want some support, you could investigate if taking Saint John’s wort for depression might be right for you. Try it for a few months to see if you notice a difference.

Make sure you actively note your mood daily to see if things improve. This way, you can make a more informed decision on if Saint John’s wort is working to improve your mental health or if you need more support. For some people, taking Saint John’s wort is enough to help them through. There is a lot of scaremongering regarding natural health and antidepressants - but whatever works for you is the best option.

We use St John's wort and well as some other powerful herbs for mood in our Mood Boost. This is an easy and tasty way of adding this plant into you everyday. 


Why is St John's wort good for mild to moderate depression?

St John’s wort has been studied extensively, with multiple clinical trials confirming its antidepressant action in humans - “the efficacy of the Hypericum extracts were found to be on par with standard antidepressants, yet with fewer side effects” (Linde et al., 2008).

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How does St John’s wort work? - St John’s wort helps with mood and depression by working on your neurotransmitters and hormones. St John’s wort specifically works on serotonin, dopamine, GABA, as well as noradrenaline and melatonin - all of which affect your mood. It also affects more neurotransmitters and hormones than some antidepressants (SSRIs), which is why it may be more broad acting and helpful for a range of mood issues than pharmaceutical antidepressants.

Do you ever feel glum in winter? With short days, cold weather and no sun - you’re not the only one. St John’s wort can help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), when the low sunlight exposure in the winter months can directly affect your mood. Studies have shown that St John’s wort on its own or with light therapy can help SAD-related symptoms. 

How does St John's wort react with other medications?

St John’s wort can indeed interfere with medication which means it’s not for everyone. This plant helps to support your liver and can make it work more efficiently, in fact it can clear medication out of the body quite quickly. This is why we don’t recommend it for people on long-term medication like warfarin, the contraceptive pill, immunosuppressive drugs, and cardiovascular or chemo drugs.

You want those pharmaceuticals to stay in your system to help with the conditions they were prescribed for. In saying that, St John’s wort teas and oils do not interact with medication and are safe to take. Unfortunately, if you are on long-term medication, high dose St John’s wort for depression is not for you.

Chronic depression recommendations

So, what can you do if you constantly struggle with your mood? First - depression and mood are affected by so many factors. It is everything in our lives, our lifestyle, our diet, our jobs, our families and close relationships, our physiology and thoughts. It is tough to work on as it can be overwhelming and hard to know where to start. I like to focus on one thing. 

You cannot rejig your whole life sustainably, especially if you aren’t feeling great. So pick one thing, let’s say movement. Don’t try and run every day or even walk thirty minutes each day. Instead, commit to five minutes of exercise. That’s it. After five minutes, stop. That way, you are creating a habit with minimal resistance. The following week increase the time to ten minutes. You can also use this approach for meditation, getting to bed earlier, and getting up earlier.

In regards to food - focus on one meal. Make one meal your priority, if you struggle to eat a balanced meal (with good protein and vegetables) because you are tired or have no time just focus on making one as good as you can. Then build on that. 

A great book to read is Lost Connections by Johann Hari, who spoke about his depression and mental health journey. He took antidepressants for decades, and for him they did not work, but for others they completely do. This book will make you look at mental health and our society differently. 

Talk to your loved ones or people you trust about how you feel. I bet most people have been in a similar situation before.


  • The Lowdown
  • Lifeline Aotearoa
  • Small Steps
  • Groov This free app with it’s wellbeing quiz helps you build your own programme. It is fronted by John Kirwan, you can choose the areas you want to focus on and for how many minutes a day e.g. 2 or 5 minutes. It has trackers, breathing tools, a kindness wheel and videos. REALLY cool and free.

Please remember to get help when you need it - everyone just wants you to feel better. x

When using any Wild Dispensary products, always read the label and use as directed.

American Botanical Council. (1990, March 13). The Commission E monographs: St. John’s wort.
Linde, K., Berner, M., & Kriston, L. (2008). St John’s wort for major depression. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008(4), CD000448. 
Groves, M.N. (2019, January 30). Light in the darkness: Herbs to lift the spirits and support mood.
Kasper, S. (1997). Treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with Hypericum extract. Pharmacopsychiatry, 30(Suppl. 2), 89-93.

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