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St. John's Wort

It is natural for all of us at one time or another to feel depressed, for life is full of many surprises, not all of which are pleasant. But there is a difference from a few days of "feeling down" and depression.

Depression is the inability to find joy in big or little pleasures or the joy is often only momentary. A person has a right to feel depressed when life has dealt a major blow or a continuing series of smaller irritations. However, the depressed person's mood sinks deeper and they feel as if they are being sucked down. They have no idea how to get rid of this despair nor do they have the energy.

A person suffering from depression does not need to hear "get over it", "look on the bright side" or "things could be worse". This "good advice" actually does more damage. A person suffering from depression might think, "yes, things can get worse and they probably will." Or they feel they are not being taken seriously and their feelings don't matter.

A person suffering from diabetes or high blood pressure is not told to "get over it." Yet, somehow we feel that because depression shows itself as a low mood we can change it. However, depressed moods are only the symptom of the problem. Researchers are now discovering that depression is caused within the brain by the inability to regulate the seratonin and norepinephrine. Seratonin and norepinephrine levels need to be high and steady level throughout the day to ensure a feeling of well being.

Nobody knows exactly how St. John' s Wort works. Some believe it works like common prescription anti-depressants, probably through serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibition. By preventing the brain from reabsorbing the neurotransmitters in question it keeps serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain at a higher level. Others believe that St. John's Wort acts on many levels simultaneously, creating an accumulating effect via serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine-reuptake inhibition, a low-level MAOI effect and by action on the hypothalamus inhibiting cortisol secretion. Obviously, they need more research if they want to find out what is truely going on.

My own occasional episodes of mild depression presented themselves as periods of extreme exhaustion. As long as I had projects going on I could function but it wasn't always fun. I have been taking St. John's Wort for a few months now and I can honestly say it has improved my energy level and helps me to take things in stride.

St. John's Wort is used as a natural, herbal alternative for the treatment of depression, in cases where standard antidepressants (such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, etc.) would be or have been prescribed. Interestingly enough, St. John's Wort is also listed as possible treatment for the following: ulcers, gastritis, diarrhea, and nausea. Urinary problems, uterine cramping, anemia and worms have been treated with it. Nervous complaints, pain, cuts and wounds, bruises and hemorrhoids, also respond to St. John's Wort. In recent years, St. John's Wort has been used as an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic (anti-bacterial). It has been used specifically for insomnia, bronchitis, consumption, dysentery, dysmenorrhea (difficult or painful menstruation), jaundice, rabies, bronchial asthma, neuralgia, fibrositis, sciatica and rheumatic pain, and menopause-triggered irritability. Researchers are checking its effectiveness on cancer and even AIDS.

Now, before we think of St. John's Wort as a cure-all, we must remember that severe depression requires immediate medical attention. In fact, if you or someone you know is experiencing depression (and they haven't just suffered a recent loss or tragedy) before you self-prescribe St. John's Wort, consider a thorough physical. Just finding out the cause of your depressed feelings can be a source of relief.

There are many other possibilities for symptoms that may appear to be depression. Some of those illnesses may include the following: low thyroid, anemia, mononucleosis, diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, or hepatitis. Medications, vitamins or mineral supplements, herbs, alcohol, smoking, coffee or illegal drugs can all have a detrimental effect on persons who are sensitive to the offending substance.

Exercise is a natural and effective way to produce endorphines in your system which are the body's natural anti-depressants. Bicycling, swimming, jogging or even a brisk walk are among the best and easiest ways to exercise.

Along with exercise, it is important to eat right. Don't kid yourself. Years of bad eating habits will eventually take a toll on your body. Yes, heredity plays a part but even the most robust genes will weaken with continued bad treatment.

Taking care of yourself also means occasionally putting yourself first. If you're a mom with children to take care of or a father who must work long and strenuous hours to provide for the family, it is essential to your good mental well-being. Once in a while - do something for yourself. It doesn't have to be expensive just make sure it is healthy and fun.

Ideas may include, but are certainly not limited to; reading a good book, soaking in a hot tub, listen to relaxing music (or invigorating music), watch a favorite movie, watch the sunset or sunrise. A few years ago, I taught a 5:30 AM seminary class and I was lucky enough to see the sunrise almost every morning. It set the tone for the day and reminded me of how blessed I was. Take the time to make and keep good friends. Everyone has their own idea of what brings them happiness, think about making your own list.

Do some research and make up your own mind. Pay attention to the side-effects listed on the sites. Remember the U.S. has not given its approval of St. John's Wort although it is widely accepted in European countries. In Germany, where it's currently the leading treatment, physicians write some 3 million prescriptions a year-25 times the number they write for Prozac.

I've included links to great sites on SJW. Some of the following sites are dedicated only to SJW information. Others feature articles on St. John's Wort and many other interesting health concerns. For these sites you will have to go the archives or search to find the SJW information.
Dr. Weil's advice

ComPortOne does not give medical advice. This article is informational and personal testimony only. Consult your own physician and do the research necessary to make an informed decision.

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