Regarded throughout Greek history as a magical flower for its powers that seemingly laugh in the face of evil, the St John’s Wort or Hypericum perforatum is nothing shy from its reputation. Often time’s herbal recommendations become lost in tattered and torn books regarded as hearsay. It is only when Eastern practices meet modern analysis that we discover the true potential to these medicinal plants. Hypericum is no exception, for centuries this flower was touted for being the cure for inner demons as even the smell would be enough to ward off troubling spirits.
Modern Analysis of Hypericum
We know now that the Hypericum flower initiates a unique chemical reaction in the brain that non-selectively effects how neurotransmitters are received and processed within that exchange. This reaction is so reliably effective at increasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin it’s no wonder our ancient ancestors believed they were having spiritual revelations when coming in contact with this medicinal flower.
What does Hypericum do?
Listed as the most purchased herbal medicine in the United States, Hypericum has been used for centuries. Originating from ancient Greece, it can be used topically to soothe wounds and burns due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
More notably the extract from which this bright yellow flower is drawn has been studied for its ability to elevate mood and combat depression. The process that drives this to take place is the same mechanism that popular antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft are designed to replicate.
How does Hypericum work?
St. John’s Wort has a unique ability to effect the amount of sodium ions within neurotransmitter signals as the synapse takes place. This effectively changes the way that the interaction of the chemical is being received through an increase in sodium ions being present. In creating this change of interactions the Hypericum flower inhibits a process called re-uptake.
Normally during re-uptake the neurotransmitter is dissipated and partially recycled as it is absorbed back within the original sending neuron. This process is prevented by the Hypericum flower due to the increased sodium ions.
To simplify things:
- You have a thought that produces an “action potential”
- That sends a neurotransmitting signal through a synapse to a receptor in the brain
- Instead of the neurotransmitter being recycled for use at a later time “re-uptake” the neurotransmitter (for example Dopamine) stays with the receiving neuron.
- This increases the length of synapses that occur thus allowing the emotion to be present longer
- In taking the St Johns extract you are enabling your brain to use neurotransmitting chemicals longer without effecting the actual production.
- This avoids the dangerous decrease in production that is often associated with antidepressants.
Benefits of Hypericum
Since the Hypericum works so powerfully to make the most out of your mood enhancing neurotransmitters it’s not surprising that this flower is the leading herbal supplement for treating depression and mood associated diseases. Imagine taking something that allows you experience emotions longer, that extra few moments of happiness when your favorite sports team scores a touchdown or acing your final exam. We can now see a natural way of extending these states that don’t need a doctor’s prescription. With that being said the power of this nootropic flower has yielded some cautions that should be reviewed before extended use especially in those dealing with serous depression.
Since St. Johns wort has a non-selective way of inhibiting chemical reactions it can decrease the effectiveness of certain prescriptions. It should also never be taken while pregnant or nursing.
It should also never be taken with other antidepressants since it can cause a life threatening amount of serotonin within the body… yikes, death by happiness.