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Saint John’s Wort

In most of the United States, St. John’s wort is considered to be a weed. But the yellow flower has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. This herb is most commonly used for depression, heart palpitations, symptoms of menopause, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, muscle and nerve pain, and many other pathologies. The oil from the plant can be applied to the skin to treat abrasions, contusions, inflammation, muscle pain and nerve pain. It should be noted that application of this medication to the skin is risky as there can be a serious hypersensitivity to sunlight.

The use of St. John’s wort dates back to the ancient Greeks including Hippocrates. The active ingredient in St. John’s wort can be deactivated by light. Investigators have found that a chemical in St. John’s wort called hypericin is responsible for an effect on depression.  Hypericin and hyperforin act on chemical messengers in the nervous system that can regulate your mood. Hyperforin has also displayed antibacterial properties against gram-positive bacteria and has positive anti-inflammatory effects.  Additionally, St. John’s wort might affect serotonin levels in the brain and interfere with surgical procedures.

It should be noted that safety and efficacy research is still limited regarding the use of herbal therapies for pain management. The government doesn’t regulate herbal products for quality. The best course is to talk to a health professional before testing out one of these herbal remedies.

To learn more about Dr. Cotler or to schedule an appointment, please call us on (713) 523-8884 or visit

Howard B. Cotler, MD, FACS, FAAOS is board certified and recertified in Orthopedic Surgery. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery and the American College of Surgeons.

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