When it comes to the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), many are turning away from pharmaceuticals in favor of natural alternatives. With that, some have used St. John’s Wort for OCD symptoms and have found a lot of relief.
But how safe is St. John’s Wort? And is it really as effective as people claim it is?
Throughout this article, we’re going to talk about this option, its benefits, its possible risks, and other alternatives that might work for OCD. At the end, we ask that you ask your own questions.
What is St. John’s Wort?
St. Johns Wort is a plant with yellow flowers that’s been utilized in herbal medicine since the ancient Greeks. Today, St. John’s Wort is taken both orally and topically for its healing properties. While there isn’t enough research to make any claims, some suggest it can work as an anti-inflammatory and have an impact on mental health complications, such as depression and anxiety. ¹
Can You Use St. John’s Wort for OCD?
A number of people have used St. John’s Wort for OCD treatment with the belief that its internal properties aid with neurological functionality in the brain. In fact, recent research has found that St. John’s Wort works similarly to SSRI antidepressants – a common medication prescribed for OCD’s depressive episodes.
St. John’s Wort is one of the most widely used and studied herbal medicines for depression. However, there is new insight into how it can aid in OCD. Studies have suggested claims that St. Johns Wort can alleviate the symptoms of various anxiety disorders, including OCD. ²
The reason for that lies in the active ingredients found in St. Johns Wort – specifically hypericum. Hypericum changes the serotonin development in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical responsible for how the brain experiences happiness and thus plays an integral role in treating mental health disorders. ³
One research study found 40% of participants saw improvement from St. John’s Wort. Unfortunately, there currently isn’t enough research to claim this supplement as an effective alternative. However, many have reported feeling relief from OCD symptoms and behaviors.
Since St. John’s Wort is relatively safe, it’s worth giving a try if you haven’t had success with traditional medication.
What Does the Research Say?
Although studies have looked into St. John’s Wort effects on OCD, they’re limited. Still, research has found St. John’s Wort may be able to help with OCD:
- One study that was executed in 2000 revealed that those utilizing the natural ingredient showed, “significant improvement” and that the effect was “similar to that found in clinical trials.” Thus showing a correlation between the claims that St. John’s Wort yielded an effective result.
- A reference list of natural supplements and mental health conditions, provided by the American Family Physicians Foundation, included St. John’s Wort and its application towards the treatment of mental health conditions. One such condition was OCD, in which they stated that St. Johns Wort is applicable for COD treatment as it is for other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- A 2005 study showed that there were no developmental changes. That being said, St. John’s Wort didn’t result in a negative reaction either. The researchers mentioned that more clinical research is recommended, citing that St. Johns Wort deserves more insight on its impact on mental health conditions.
St. John’s Wort for OCD Dosage Recommendation
St. Johns Wort is available on the market in various different forms, including dry powders, liquid tinctures, and capsules. Each form has its own potencies, brands and manufacturers might have varying strengths to their products.
Those using it to treat various mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and OCD with St. John’s Wort seeming benefit from a consistent, measured daily dose. In order to treat mental health conditions, it’s recommended to take St. John’s Wort in a capsule form. ⁴ In clinical trials, most have had success with 300mg taken three times daily.
What are the Risks with St. John’s Wort?
The risks of St. John’s Wort mainly lie within its interactions with other medications, some of the more serious side effects, and its impact on gastrointestinal organs. St. John’s Wort interaction with medications, especially antidepressants, can cause a reversal or adverse effect on the patient being treated with such prescriptions.
St. John’s Wort Side Effects
The most common side effects for St. John’s Wort are: ⁵
- Disorientation (i.e. headaches, dizziness)
- Drug interactions
- Increased sensitivity for skin and eyes (i.e. to touch or to light)
- Liver toxicity (with prolonged use or increased dosages)
- Shifting moods with irritability and anxiety
- Sleep difficulties (i.e. oversleeping and vivid dreams
- Stomach irritation
St. John’s Wort Reviews
When looking for St. Johns Wort, there are many options to purchase from. However, you want to get natural supplements from trusted and sustainable sources. Due to this, we have comprised a list of the best recommended brands and manufacturers to get your St. John’s Wort from.
Gaia Herbs has been in the business of connecting people, plants, and the planet to create healing since 1987. The company ensures that its products are organic, sustainable, and intentionally made. Each contains a HerbID which allows you to trace how that specific herb was cultivated.
Gaia Herbs offers eight products containing St. Johns Wort, most of which are in capsule form:
- They have a standard St. Johns Wort supplement, dosing is concentrated at 500mg per capsule and should be taken three times daily.
- Gaia also provides a liquid tincture of St. John’s Wort which is concentrated at 500mg per mL. This is a great option for those who have difficulty swallowing pills.
- Emotional Balance is Gaia’s form of a multivitamin supplement, which contains St. Johns Wort as well as Passionflower, Vervain, Gotu Kola, and Ginkgo. By incorporating all these natural herbs, Gaia hopes to provide you with overall mental wellbeing.
- On the subject of multivitamins, Gaia has created a Women’s Balance supplement which aids in providing hormonal balance as well as relief of occasional hot flashes. The Women’s Balance multivitamin contains St. John’s Wort as well as Vitex and Black Cohosh and is balanced out at 430mg of plant-based material per dose and is to be taken three times a day between meals.
HerbPharm is a trusted supplier of natural supplements through liquid forms including tinctures and sprays. They have been in business since 1979, creating products through sustainable farming practices and manufacturing their supplements through their own unique extraction methods. Certain products certify that they’re GMO-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly.
HerbPharm has two products they provide for their customers for their St. John’s Wort needs:
- St. John’s Wort liquid tincture can be purchased in two forms: a 1-ounce form and a 4-ounce bottle. The suggested use is to take a full squeeze of the dropper bulb in 2 ounces of water or juice, twice to five times daily between meals.
- HerbPharm also offers an external St. John’s Wort Oil to applied to the skin with a cotton gauze or massaged into the skin until absorbed. However, it should be noted that this product is less likely to help with OCD symptoms.
Nature’s Bounty is a part of the Bountiful Company which is a family of wellness brands that provide their customers with quality products to complement their lifestyles and physical health. Their dedication to research has given them the ability to create an excellent selection of supplements and vitamins. All products are up to GMP quality standards and also meet Quality Assurance Standards.
Nature’s Bounty has a St. John’s Wort supplement in 300mg capsules that should be taken three times daily. Since this is the standard recommended dosing, newcomers to St. John’s Wort for OCD may want to give this a try. These capsules can also be mixed into hot tea.
Nature’s Way is a supplement and vitamin company providing naturally created and sustainably harvested herbal ingredients. They have also prided themselves on manufacturing and distributing high quality extracts and supplements for over fifty years.
Nature’s Way offers their St. John’s Wort herb capsules in 700mg per capsules. Each capsule also contains ingredients from the stem, leaf, and flower of the St. John’s Wort plant.
Alternative Holistic Approach to OCD
Besides using St. John’s Wort for OCD, there are other natural remedies to look into. These include:
Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by plants of the Curcuma. Typically, it’s sold as a herbal supplement, cosmetics ingredient, food flavoring, and also within food coloring. As an herbal supplement, it’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Primarily, curcumin is taken to boost immune health as well as relieve inflammation. ⁶
However, there have been studies done to see its impact on mental health complications, such as depression, anxiety, and OCD. As for OCD, it has been shown to improve the severity of OCD symptoms and alter brain chemistry, especially in the production of monoamine levels which aid in regulating OCD-influenced behaviors. ⁷
Milk thistle is a purple-flowering thistle plant. Typically found in Europe, it was introduced to North America by colonists. It has been used traditionally for gastrointestinal and liver ailments, and even for cancer. Although nowadays milk thistle is promoted as a dietary supplement for hepatitis, cirrhosis, jaundice, diabetes, indigestion, and other conditions. ⁸
Some studies has compared the effects of milk thistle to Prozac which is a common medication in treating OCD. Milk thistle and Prozac have shown comparable benefits and although needs to be researched more heavily, it shows promise as an alternative and natural treatment option. ⁹
Native to Asia and Europe, valerian root is a perennial plant whose roots are typically harvested for teas, tincture extracts, and ground up and put into capsules and tablets. The ancient Greeks and Romans hailed valerian root for its medicinal properties of treating such ailments as sleep disorders and insomnia as well as different mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and OCD. ¹⁰
The natural ingredient has been the subject of studies and has shown promise as it contains some anti-obsessive properties which can help alleviate some of the more severe symptoms of OCD. However, it’s usually taken alongside pharmaceutical OCD medications in order to enhance the effects of the meds and provide more sustainable relief over the long-term. ¹¹
Vitamin D, which is commonly found through UV rays of the sun, vitamin D has become a vitamin that many people have issues getting enough of. Due to this predicament, vitamin D has been added to foods and is available as a dietary supplement. Vitamin D is widely known to aid in bone development and strengthening but its benefits on mental health conditions have become more widely known over the years. ¹²
When Vitamin D is deficient in a person’s diet, it can cause health complications and this includes symptoms of OCD in some. In fact, studies have found that the more deficient one’s vitamin D levels are, the more likely their OCD symptoms will worsen. Therefore, there may be a need of taking extra vitamin D in order to counterbalance the deficiency. ¹³
OCD can be a debilitating mental health condition and treating it can allow not only relief but also for those struggling with the condition to lead more healthy and fulfilling lives. With that understanding, it’s comprehensible for those having difficulties with their OCD to want to treat it with all-natural and herbal alternative treatments rather than relying on harsh pharmaceutical medications.
Although St. John’s Wort has promising results for OCD, anxiety, and depression, it requires more research and should only be taken with the guidance of a medical or mental health professional. Still, since so many have seen relief from St. John’s Wort and since there are very few side effects, it’s worth looking into.
Still have questions about St. John’s Wort for OCD?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge on this topic – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Mind UK: About St. John’s Wort
² Jama Network: Effectiveness of St John’s Wort in Major Depression
³ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Herbal Medicine – Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition – Chapter 11 Medical Attributes of St. John’s Wort
⁴ National Center for Biotechnology Information: St. John’s Wort and Depression: In-Depth
⁵ MayoClinic: St. John’s wort
⁶ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health
⁷ National Center for Biotechnology Information via US Library of Medicine: Effect of curcumin on quinpirole induced compulsive checking in OCD patients
⁸ US Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health: Milk Thistle
⁹ National Center for Biotechnology Information via US Library of Medicine: Nutritional and herbal supplements in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder
¹⁰ National Institute of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements: Valerian Fact Sheet
¹¹ National Center for Biotechnology Information via US Library of Medicine Extract of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis L.) vs. placebo in treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder
¹² National Institute of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D Fact Sheet
¹³ National Center for Biotechnology Information via US Library of Medicine: Vitamin D Deficiency in Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder Patients