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Adverse effects profile of the herbal antidepressant St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.)

Abstract

Objective: This paper provides a systematic review of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) associated with the use of extracts of the herb St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

Methods: Searches of four computerized literature databases were performed for records of (ADRs). Manufacturers of hypericum products, the international drug monitoring centre of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the national drug safety monitoring bodies of Germany and the United Kingdom were also contacted for information.

Results: Information on (ADRs) originates from case reports, clinical trials, post-marketing surveillance and drug monitoring studies. Collectively, the data suggest that hypericum is well tolerated, with an incidence of adverse reactions similar to that of placebo. The most common adverse effects are gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness/confusion and tiredness/sedation. A potential serious adverse effect is photosensitivity, but this appears to occur extremely rarely.

Conclusions: Hypericum has an encouraging safety profile. However, as most of the current data originate from short-term investigations, more long-term studies are desirable.

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Received: 2 February 1998 / Accepted in revised form: 8 June 1998

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Ernst, E., Rand, J., Barnes, J. et al. Adverse effects profile of the herbal antidepressant St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.). E J Clin Pharmacol 54, 589–594 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1007/s002280050519

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s002280050519

  • Key wordsHypericum perforatum
  • Depression
  • Adverse drug reaction