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 St Johns Wort and how to use st John's wort

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Herbs and Pets: Using St. John's Wort    (Hypericum perforatum  )                             

 written by Shawn Messonnier, DVM


(Author, of  8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, The Allergy Solution for Dogs, and the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats. His new book, The Natural Vetís Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, is scheduled for publication in February of 2006.


In pets combination products containing multiple ingredients are more often prescribed than individual herbs. However, having an understanding of the individual herbs contained in the product can help the owner understand why the herb was included in the product. In people, St Johns Wort is often used to help control mild depression. In pets the herb is used as part of anti-anxiety formulas.


The active components in St Johnís wort are found in the buds, flowers, and newest leaves. Extracts are usually standardized to the substance hypericin, which has led to the widespread misconception that hypericin is the active ingredient. However, there is no evidence that hypericin itself is an antidepressant. Recent attention has focused on another ingredient of ST Johnís wort named hyperforin as the potential active ingredient.


It appears that standard ST. Johnís wort extract contains about 1 to 6% hyperforin.

Early research suggested that St. Johnís wort works like the oldest class of antidepressants, the MAO inhibitors.  However, later research essentially discredited this idea.  More recent research suggests that ST. JohnísWort  may raise levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  This probably increases neurotransmitters to maintain normal mood and emotional stability (the herb may also cause binding of GABA and act as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor.)  Studies have used the standardized extract containing 0.14% hypericin.


Evidence from animal and human studies suggests that hyperforin is the ingredient in St Johnís wort that raises these neurotransmitters.  However, there may be other active ingredients in ST . Johnís wort also at work.


The herb has been recommended for depression, separation anxiety, and certain forms of aggression in pets.


In people, ST . Johnís wort  is one of the best-documented herbal treatments, with a scientific record approaching that of many prescription drugs. It is a prescription antidepressant in Germany, covered by the national health-care system, and is prescribed more frequently for depression than any synthetic drug.


Saint John's wort is also useful for its antiviral and antibacterial properties.  It also has tonic effects on nerves.


Interest in Saint John's wort is ongoing regarding antiviral activity and the potential to treat diseases including both human and feline AIDS infections.  While definitive proof is lacking, it may be worthwhile to try Saint John's wort in pets with severe viral infections (canine distemper, feline leukemia and immunodeficiency infections.)


Applied locally, this herb is useful to heal wounds.


In people, the current recommendation is 300 mg three times daily of the 0.3% hypericin standardized solution as a treatment for depression.  A few new products on the market are standardized to hyperforin content (usually 3 to 5%) instead of hypericin. These are taken at the same dosage.


In dogs, a dose of 250-300 mg twice daily for large dogs has been recommended and proven useful clinically.


In people, research suggests that ST  Johnís wort  is effective in about 55% of cases. As with other antidepressants, the full effect takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks to develop. Although St. Johnís wort  appears to be somewhat less powerful than standard antidepressants, it rarely causes side effects.


Use of Saint John's wortmay potentiate anesthetics and other sedatives; photosensitivity has been reported in people taking high doses.  The herb should not be taken with other drugs which can inhibit MAO.  In people, it is recommended to take the herb with food to decrease gastrointestinal upset.


In people, the most common are mild stomach discomfort allergic reactions (mainly a rash,) lethargy, and restlessness.


Animal studies involving very large doses for 26 weeks have not shown any serious effects.


Do not combine St. Johnís wort with prescription antidepressants except on the specific advice of a veterinarian, especially drugs that increase serotonin levels. Since some antidepressants, such as Prozac, linger in the blood for quite some time, caution is advised when switching from a drug to St  Johnís wort . The safest approach is to stop administering similar medications and allow them to wash out of your pet's system before starting St. Johnís wort  Consult with your veterinarian on how much time is necessary.


There has also recently been an informal report of St Johnís wort lowering blood levels of theophylline, an asthma medication, in people. Preliminary investigation suggests that the hypericin in st Johnís wort may increase the activity of a liver enzyme called cytochrome P-450. Because this enzyme can break down drugs, St . Johnís wort may cause the body to speed the breakdown of various drugs (such as theophylline), thereby decreasing their effectiveness.

 ST. John's wort  (depression) may  raise blood pressure, cause agitation, drowsiness, and confusion in surgical patients.


Finally, preliminary reports from the University of Colorado suggest that St. Johnís wort may interfere with the action of the antitumor drugs etoposide (VePesid), teniposide (Vumon), mitoxantrone (Novantrone), and doxorubicin (Adriamycin).

Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established; similar precautions in pets is probably also warranted.



 Where to locate our ST John's wort Products

 STJohn's wort cut

ST John's wort powder

ST John's wort Capsules



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