Have any of your friends or doctors recommended taking St. John’s wort for menopause? The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are frustrating, with one of the worst being hot flashes; that sensation of overheating (and potentially sweating) while turning red in the face, fanning yourself in desperation as you stand in line to buy your groceries. We know the feeling.
According to the Mayo Clinic, experts don’t know the exact cause of hot flashes, but it’s likely because changes in reproductive hormones offset the hypothalamus — the body's “thermostat.” Regardless of why they happen, hot flashes are a pain, and when they occur at nighttime, they can absolutely get in the way of a good, restful night's sleep. Luckily, however, research has shown promising findings when it comes to treating hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms with St. John’s wort.
What is St. John’s wort?
St. John’s wort, or Hypericum Perforatum, is a plant with a yellow flower that is believed to be native to Europe as well as parts of Asia and Africa. It is so named because the flowers bloom in late June, near the birthday of John the Baptist. “Wort,” as it turns out, is just a fancy name for plant. Today, this yellow weed is primarily grown and harvested in Australia.
St. John’s wort has been used as a holistic remedy for depression and mood-related symptoms like lethargy, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. It’s also been used as a potent anti-inflammatory, and has been researched for its ability to ease symptoms of menopause. Could this be the answer we've been looking for?
St. John’s wort for Hot Flashes and Symptoms of Menopause
More specifically, St. John’s wort has been used to treat hot flashes after clinical studies have shown some efficacy in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
In one 2010 study published in the journal Menopause, 100 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women who reported experiencing severe hot flashes participated in a clinical trial where some were treated with St. John’s wort while others were given a placebo for eight weeks. Researchers collected data based on the frequency, duration, and severity of hot flashes. The results showed that the group treated with the herbal remedy experienced significant relief of their symptoms in as little as four weeks, and even more so by the end of the eight-week trial.That’s right, sweet relief could be yours in as little as a few weeks!
In another 2009 study published in the same journal, researchers studied a group of 47 women who reported experiencing hot flashes three to four times per day. Some were given a daily dose of St. John’s wort extract for 12 weeks while others were given a placebo. Results showed that the group receiving the plant extract experienced fewer and less severe hot flashes, as well as an overall improved quality of life (based on a quality of life assessment given by researchers). Perhaps most interesting is that these women showed significant improvement in sleep quality.
And while hot flashes are a major problem for menopausal women, changes in our hormones are known to also wreak havoc on our moods. There's evidence that St. John’s wort, which has historically been used as an antidepressant, is just as effective as certain anti-depressant medications like SSRI’s. More specifically, treatment with St. John’s wort was even shown to improve psychological symptoms of menopause in 1999 study published in the journal Advances in Therapy. In the same study, sexual well-being also improved in the group of women taking St. John’s wort.
Is St. John’s wort safe to take?
Because of the way it is metabolized by the liver, St. John’s wort may influence the effectiveness of other drugs. Anti-depressants, in particular, can be affected by St. John’s wort and cause a condition called serotonin syndrome, which creates an excess of serotonin in the body. It can also interfere with other drugs like oral contraceptives, heart medication, blood thinners, HIV/AIDS medications, and cough and cold medicine, as well as some others. Since dietary supplements are not regulated the same way that medications are, it’s important to make sure that you check with your doctor before beginning a program on any new supplement.