Written by Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated September 21, 2016

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Abstract and key points

  • St. John’s wort is an effective anti-depressive agent.
  • Some people also promote it as a cancer drug but there is no good evidence to support this claim.
  • St. John’s wort is generally a safe remedy but can powerfully interact with several drugs used for cancer patients.

Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) is a perennial flowering plant, preparations of which are popular as an anti-depressant and are also being promoted as an alternative cancer therapy. Even though some preliminary pre-clinical investigations have generated encouraging findings, there are no clinical studies to show that St. John’s wort would change the natural history of any type of cancer. St. John’s wort may reduce the blood levels of many conventional drugs, including some cancer medicines. Rare adverse effects include psychological symptoms, allergic reactions and visual disturbances.

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of herbal medicine at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Karen Pilkington, Edzard Ernst, CAM-Cancer Consortium. St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) [online document]. http://www.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/St.-John-s-wort-Hypericum-perforatum. September 21, 2016.

Document history

Summary updated in September 2016 by Karen Pilkington.
Summary assessed as up to date in September 2013 by Edzard Ernst.
Most recent update and revision in May 2012 by Edzard Ernst.
Summary first published in April 2011, authored by Edzard Ernst.

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