St Johns Wort in Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here in New Zealand we are in deepest darkest winter and spring still seems a long way away. There are many excellent methods available to alleviate the SAD symptoms and low mood such as exercising outdoors, taking a vitamin D supplement and even using a lightbox to imitate sunlight, in addition to the usual pillars of wellbeing including good nutrition and sleep, calmness and mindfullness and exercise.

St Johns Wort is another good option to consider for the winter months if you are prone to SAD. It is a well studied herb available in most high st pharmacies which is used first line in Germany by physicians for depression. It has done well in randomised controlled trials looking at anxiety and depression. It can be taken for upto 3 months at a dose of 300mg three times daily, and it may take a couple of weeks for its therapeutic effects to become noticeable.

Another benefit of St Johns Wort is that it also has anti-microbial effects , which is a fabulous way to avoid some of the winter viruses lurking around every corner this time of year. St Johns Wort has also been shown to be anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and can also help with aches and pains.

A word of caution however, St Johns Wort interracts with many medications and it is important to double check with your local pharmacist that it is safe to start a course of St Johns Wort. As it has a similar action, St Johns shouldn't be taken with antidepressants. There are also side effects such as a sun sensitive rash, nausea, fatigue and restlessness and so on. However most people tolerate St Johns Wort well.

Once spring arrives, if you are taking St Johns Wort for SAD you can then gently wean yourself off over 2-4 weeks, and get ready for for sunnier times.