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St John's wort: benefits and uses

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This popular herbal medicine can help with anxiety and low mood.

🕒 2 min read

St John's wort is a traditional medicine for relieving low mood, and is sometimes referred to as nature's 'sunshine' herb. It has vibrant yellow petals which, when held up to the light, reveal numerous pinpoint red glands that contain a fluorescent red dye.

This dye contains various substances, including hypericin and hyperforin, which have a natural anti-depressant action.

How does it work?

St John's wort extract helps to prolong the action of a wide range of neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and L-glutamate. This helps to even out and lift low mood.

What can it help?

In the UK, St John's wort is licensed as a traditional herbal medicine to relieve the symptoms of low mood and anxiety. It has also been used to support withdrawal in smoking cessation, alcohol and drug addiction and compulsive behaviour.


A 2016 analysis of data from 27 studies, involving over 3,120 people with depression, found that St John's wort extracts were just as effective in improving symptoms as prescribed antidepressant drugs (SSRIs), with no differences between treatment in clinical response, remission, or reduction in depression scores.

Importantly, however, St John's wort extract had a significantly lower rate of side effects than SSRIs, and researchers concluded that its extract had superior safety in treating mild-to-moderate depression.

Pre-menstrual syndrome

PMS is often associated with low mood, and several small studies have shown that St John's wort can significantly improve overall premenstrual syndrome scores, reducing crying, low mood and nervous tension. St John's wort also significantly improves the most common physical and behavioural symptoms of PMS.


St John's wort can improve the psychological and physical symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, low mood, anxiety, low sex drive and exhaustion. Women taking it also report increased self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect.

What to buy

Look for versions of St John's wort that are THR-registered for quality assurance.


If you think you have depression, it's important to tell your GP, as referral for talking therapies is also beneficial.

St John's Wort Mood Relief pack

St John's Wort Mood Relief

Traditional herbal medicine used for relief of low moods and mild anxiety

  • Registered Traditional Herbal Medicine (THR)
  • Traditionally used for the relief of low moods and mild anxiety
  • 2-month supply
Shop now
The facts

Perfect partners

Black cohosh for menopause, agnus castus (chasteberry) for PMS


370mg extract, equivalent to 1,850mg-2,590mg St John's wort

Did you know?

St John's wort is so called because it flowers around 24 June – the feast day of St John the Baptist – while 'wort' derives from an Old English word for herb or plant.

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