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Herb Outscores Placebo in Treating Mild Depression

Katherine M. Bennett

Hypericum extract from St. John’s wort seems better than placebo---but perhaps not as good as standard-dosage prescription drugs---at treating patients with mild to moderate depression, researchers found.

Rigorous criteria were used by the researchers in their review of English-language articles, yielding eight randomized, double-blind trials of single-ingredient hypericum extract. In the four comparisons with placebo, hypericum treatment led to proportionately more patients scoring better on a widely used depression rating scale. When tested against tricyclic antidepressants, however, hypericum treatment had lower response rates, even though very low dosages of the prescription drugs had been used.

The authors of the Jan. 24 article in Archives of Internal Medicine noted the low cost of antidepressant therapy with hypericum extract but also the lack of regulation and standardization of commercially available products.

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