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St John's Wort for Anxiety: How to Achieve a More Relaxing Sleep

St John's Wort for Anxiety: How to Achieve a More Relaxing Sleep

If you experience anxiety, you could benefit from supplementing your diet with St John’s wort to help you sleep better.

St John’s wort is a herbal medicinal supplement derived from the flowers of the plant by the same name (or Hypericum perforatum). It is commonly used as an over-the-counter treatment for mild depression, anxiety and sleep problems.

Here, we provide an in-depth explanation of how St John’s wort can help you achieve a more relaxing sleep, as well as how best to take it.


What is St John’s wort?

A plant with yellow, star-shaped flowers, St John’s wort grows in Eastern Asia, New Zealand, Australia, North and South America, and Europe.i It has long been used to support the reduction of mental health conditions — namely depression and anxietyii — helping to mitigate symptoms such as tiredness, nervousness, poor appetite, and problems sleeping.

The chemicals hypericin and hyperforin are thought to be responsible for St John wort’s mood-enhancing qualities.iii These chemicals increase the activity of the brain’s ‘feel-good’ messengers, which play a crucial role in balancing mood and emotions.iv


How can St John’s wort benefit sleep?

St John’s wort can benefit sleep by helping to regulate mood and by increasing the production of the body’s sleep hormone, melatonin.

There’s some evidence to suggest St John’s wort may provide some relief from anxiety.v St John’s wort helps the brain use the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) serotonin, dopamine, gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), and norepinephrine more effectively.vi This can lead to feelings of overall wellbeing and happiness, and may reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Prescription anti-anxiety medication works in a very similar way. It interacts with GABA transmitters in the brain to improve mood and emotional responses.vii This is why many scientists believe St John’s wort may have anti-anxiety properties.

Although there aren’t many long-term studies that examine the use of St John’s wort for anxiety, the existing findings are encouraging. In a 2019 study, researchers found that St John’s wort produced a positive shift in emotional responses towards negative signals. The study found that after seven days of taking St John’s wort, participants remembered positive words better, had reduced attention to fearful faces and reduced recognition of disgusted facial expressions — results which also occur with other antidepressant treatments.viii

St John’s wort also supports sleep by elevating serotonin levels, which, in turn, facilitates the production of melatonin in the body.ix Often called the ‘sleep hormone’, melatonin plays a central role in governing your circadian rhythm. Melatonin peaks in the evening to induce sleep and dips in the morning to wake the body up. As St John’s wort increases serotonin, it aids the biological process that promotes quality sleep.


What is the best way to take St John’s wort?

St John’s wort is available in tincture, tea and tablets. To ensure you take enough to impact your sleep, however, we suggest taking the herb in tablet form, like our high-strength St John’s wort tablet. To optimise sleep, take one tablet daily with water.

 

St John’s wort and interactions

Though St John’s wort is natural, it can still interact with certain foods and commonly prescribed medication, especially those that also affect neurotransmitter levels. Before using this herbal remedy, always consult your doctor.


Food and drink interactionsx

  • Food and drink high in tyramine, such as sausage, salami, dried meats, aged or fermented meats, pickled herring, red wine, beer, aged cheeses, sauerkraut, soy sauce, soybeans, miso soup, fava beans, bean curd, or yeast extract. Eating these foods while taking St John’s wort may raise your blood pressure.

  • Limit alcohol use. Alcohol can increase the nervous system implications of St John’s Wort, like difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, and dizziness.

 

Medication interactionsxi

  • Birth control pills: St John’s wort may decrease the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill

  • Antidepressants: taking St John’s wort with antidepressants may lead to serotonin syndrome, in which levels of serotonin become dangerously high

  • Warfarin: St John’s wort may increase the risk of blood clots

  • Xanax: St John’s wort may reduce the effectiveness of this anti-anxiety medication


If you’re considering using St John’s wort as a natural sleep aid, always consult your doctor beforehand to ensure it won’t interact with any other medication you’re taking,

For more information on improving your sleep hygiene, as well as common sleep conditions and treatments, explore the rest of our dedicated sleep resources.
 



References:

  1. Webmd.com. St. John's Wort: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. Available online: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-329/st-johns-wort

  2. NCCIH. St. John's Wort and Depression: In Depth. Available online: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm#hed2

  3. Webmd.com. St. John's Wort: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. Available online: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-329/st-johns-wort

  4. Mind.org.uk. St John's wort - Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems. Available online: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/st-johns-wort/#.XYyS3-dKiT8

  5. , , et al. St. John's Wort in Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Three More Case Reports. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 23(5), 531-532.

  6. Healthline. St. John's Wort and Anxiety: Does It Help? Available online: https://www.healthline.com/health/st-johns-wort-anxiety#anxiety-remedy

  7. Mind.org.uk. About benzodiazepines - Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems. Available online: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/sleeping-pills-and-minor-tranquillisers/about-benzodiazepines

  8. , & Subchronic treatment with St John’s wort produces a positive shift in emotional processing in healthy volunteersn. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 33(2), 194-201.

  9. & A melatonin-rich germplasm line of St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.). Journal of Pineal Research. 41(3), 284-287.

  10. Drugs.com. St. John's wort and Alcohol / Food Interactions - Drugs.com. Available online: https://www.drugs.com/food-interactions/st-john-s-wort.html

  11. Healthline. SSt. John's Wort and Anxiety: Does It Help? Available online: https://www.healthline.com/health/st-johns-wort-anxiety#anxiety-remedy

   

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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