Good Food Good Health – St John's Wort – Nature's Prozac

Did you know that the herbal supplement St John's Wort is as good at mood enhancing and uplifting as Prozac? With the dark months looming and the gloomy current economic outlook, the winter blues are likely to hit more people than ever this year. The numbers of people with Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD. has risen greatly over the last decade and is now a common condition that is medically recognized.

Giving your body the best fighting chance against SAD, the winter blues or viruses can easily be achieved by eating good food for good health. By eating a wide range of nutritionally good foods enables the body to receive its many important vitamins and nutrients, encouraging a healthy immune system for good health of body and mind alike.

The immune system works hard to fight against all the many stresses of everyday life as well as our daily bombardment of viruses. St John's Wort – the herbal extract – has long been known for its mood lifting powers worldwide but now has medically been given credit in helping fight depression.

The yellow flowered hedgerow plant's Greek name Hypericum means 'to place something above a picture' which is a known practice for ward off evil, and the herb blooms around St Johns day – 24th June since the name. The first recorded medicinal use of St John's Wort was in ancient Greece where over the centuries it has not only been used to treat depression but many other conditions ranging from breathing problems to dysentery as well.

The symptoms of winter blues and SAD are very similar and include lack of energy, tiredness, over eating, social withdrawal and low moods, but the severity of these is much deeper with SAD. These symptoms can often seriously affect the sufferer's performance in their relationships, work and home life. The cause of SAD is undetermined but the long dark winter days with a lack of natural daylight is thought to be the main trigger causing the body to increase production of melatonin which normally is only released at night, helping us sleep, and suppresses production of serotonin .

Low serotonin is a feature of depression that can improve quite significantly through the summer months, with the use of light therapy and now with St Johns Wort. Scientists found that St John's Wort is just as effective at treating depression as Prozac in the most thorough study of the plant, and that it had fewer side effects than standard drugs.

A wide range of anti-depressants old and new, including the latest SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) drugs such as Seroxat and Prozac were compared to the plant in the study. They believe that St John's Wort works in exactly the same way as SSRIs, by keeping serotonin – the chemical associated most commonly with positive and happy moods – floating for longer around the brain by blocking their re-absorption into the brain.

As the level of serotonin stays more constant in the brain it helps to stabilize the person's mood, making them feel happier and less prone to mood swings and feeling depressed. A separate study found that St John's Wort is the only alternative medicine proven to have an effect on depression.

In Germany St John's Wort is commonly prescribed to teenagers and children to lift depression, where it is deemed an effective medication. The Republic of Ireland made St John's Wort prescription only in 2000, as it should not have been taken by anyone already on anti-depressants or blood thinners as there is a higher risk of having a stroke.

Also while taking the supplement there is concern that the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill can be interfereed with. Although St John's Wort can be bought readily from supermarkets and health food stores where the product quality can vary greatly, it is always advised to consult your doctor's advice before taking.

If you believe that you maybe or are suffering from the winter blues or depression you should seek medical advice as there are many specialist groups that can help you, and help you help yourself. Helping yourself is the main key, but realizing we are affected by depression is not something we want to acknowledge, often our close friends and family become aware before we are ready to admit it.

Our moods change and can be greatly affected by our environment, pressure of everyday life, running a family, worry about prosperity and job security, depressed global economic conditions the media seem fixated on, the list is endless. So why not try a little self indulgence, that's right self indulgence, I know in this economic climate we are looking for the cheaper option to many things especially food, but the food we eat relates very much to our wellbeing of body and mind alike.

Cheaper food is often higher in carbohydrates and just because it is cheaper we eat more, making a vicious circle. Eating good food really does give us the feel good factor and helps lift our mood. If we buy and eat good food we really are far more satisfied, we generally eat smaller amounts as the taste of good healthy food actually works on our brains as well as our stomachs giving us a sense of fulfillment, which raises our spirits.

Lazy luxurious baths cost little and ease not only the pain and strains of the day. Visualization therapy is my way of coping with feeling down or stressed about anything, it is so easy to do and it has a very calming effect on me that always lifts me. I am lucky enough to never have suffered from depression, although a very close friend of mine sufferers a bout of it most years and it really alters her character.

If you have plenty of money a winter holiday to the sunshine can really help, but using visualization can whizz you off so sunny climates without leaving your home, anyone can do it once you have learned the technique and correct breathing pattern, and now on cold mornings I find myself doing it whilst I am walking the dog, always brings a smile to my face and some strange looks from passers by! The power of the mind is a powerful force, and we need to be able to put ourselves in the right 'mind set' to be able to unleash this and benefit our health by reinforcing positive feelings, that is why I am such a great believer in visualization, it is easy to do and costs nothing – just your time, so why not give it a go yourself.

I am lucky enough to never have suffered from depression, although a very close friend of mine sufferers a bout of it most years and it really alters her character, she generally takes prescribed medication but is going to give the St John's Wort a try this winter should she succumb to it. So remember that by eating a varied diet of good food for good health supplies your necessary daily nutrients and vitamins, for health of mind and body but sometimes we do need that little extra lift and therefore St John's Wort could just be the help you need, but always seek advice before taking

Healthy happy eating
Sandra & Ted

Was this post helpful?