St. Johnswort. I am convinced, as are most of you, that “proven” pharmaceuticals are at least three orders of magnitude more dangerous than our clinically proven herbs. Jim Duke, PhD

Bright Yellow Flowers and Deep Dark Depression by Jim Duke, PhD

Amazing how the press failed to tell us that Zoloft was no better than a placebo, as they plastered the airwaves and newspapers with the statement that St. John’s wort was no better than a placebo for major depression. Actually, neither the billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry nor the million-dollar herbal industry did as well as a placebo for major depression. The press early on erred saying that Zoloft had fewer sexual side effects (anorgasmia) than St. John’s wort. Now that’s depressing! Yet tables in JAMA showed that Zoloft was twice as bad on that anorgasmia as Hypericum (St. John's Wort). 

Of course, few, if any, herbalists prescribe Hypericum for anything more serious than mild to moderate depression, for which it has been proved effective time and again, competitive with the best of pharmaceuticals. So they downplayed herbalism by reporting a study of an herb for an ailment (major depression) other than what it is normally prescribed.

With the nights getting longer, even I get sad with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and may resort to Hypericum (or better yet a trip to lower latitudes and longer days). In the depression plot in my Green Farmacy Garden this summer, (recently made even more floriferous by a visit from Aviva and her beautiful family) there were three bright yellow flowers: the (1) hypericum, one of the best sources of hypericin and hyperforin, and in
Germany used more than all other antidepressants combined; the (2) sunflower, edible seeds of which are one of the better published sources of the antidepressant phenylalanine, and the star of my garden, the (3) evening primrose (Oenothera biennis),edible seeds of which one of the better published sources of the antidepressant tryptophan. These three happy flowers are all well endowed with antidepressant phytochemicals, many of which coevolved with our body and genes for millions of years, methinks. I polemicize that through homeostatic evolution over these millions of years our bodies have learned to grab these things when we need them and to exclude them when we don’t. Up to a point, at least! Any good medicine, and that includes foremost phytomedicinal compounds, have a safe dose, a toxic dose, and a lethal dose.

Yes, I maintain that when you give a person an herb, you are giving that person a phytochemical menu and this reductionist believes that the human body homestatically sifts through the herbal phytochemical pot-pourri like a hungry person selecting menu items for dinner. That’s what I mean when I speak of the davidian herbal sling-shotgun (Hypericum) versus the goliathian pharmaceutical bullet (Zoloft; sertralin). When you give your body an herbal tea, you are giving it a veritable menu of genetically familiar phytochemicals.

Your body knows better than your herbalist, homeopath, pharmacist, physician, or naturopath, which, if any, of these phytochemicals your body needs. Through homeostasis, your body selects some of those needed, selectively mining the menu. That’s what I mean when I say I prefer the herbal shotgun, with a wide array of medicines, versus the synthetic silver bullet, where the body has no choice. The multiple activity menu (MAM) for hypericum and depression (read mild to moderate) reads like a veritable phytochemical menu. Wham bam, thank you MAM, may be the title of my next book if I can find a publisher as crazy as I. My computer can now reductionistically make MAM’s for any major herb and any major disease. It’s most rewarding when one realizes that these same herbs are most often those favored by the clinical herbalist. After hearing Dr. Jerry Con’s high praise for omega-3-fatty acids in depression, I’d use walnut oil to
extract my hypericum flowers (And I would use the native American Hypericum punctatum which seems to have more of the “blood of Saint John,” especially on St. Johns’ Day, but I would not recommend the punctatum to others until it too has been clinically proven, as has Hypericum perforatum). I would also eat my walnuts, best source of dietary serotonin, with my sunflower seed and evening primrose seed ground up on my
purslane salad, purslane being apparently the richest leafy source of ALA.

Depressingly, I suspect the time is not yet ripe to add cannabis oil to my salad but it is said to have one of the best proportionate mixes of ALA and GLA. I’d like that better than the ALA-rich flax seed oil. Some flax also have yellow flowers, but mine in the green Farmacy Garden are blue. I could produce a MAM for most important medicinal plants, reductionistically explaining for reductioinstic thinkers that there is a chemical explanation behind the clinically proven efficacy of these herbs. It would clearly show
the menu of phytochemcials from which the body homeostatically mines what it needs. I do this, not to convince the clinical herbalist who already knows, but to convince the reductionistic allopathic doubters who may actually believe that herbs are more dangerous than pharmaceuticals. I am convinced, as are most of you, that “proven” pharmaceuticals are at least three orders of magnitude more dangerous than our clinically proven herbs.

For the skeptical, I conclude with a quote from JAMA, on May Day of this year: “Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are believed to be the leading cause of death in the United States.”

Lasser et JAMA 287(17): 2215-2220. May 1, 2002.

Mindmap on St Johnswort's other uses by Don Ollsin MA