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St. John's Wort Not Effective On ADHD, Study Finds

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 2:26 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Living Well, ADHD, Dietary Supplements, Depression

St. John's Wort, the herbal remedy used in children to treat ADHD, is not effective says this published study from Bastyr University, which specializes in natural health.


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ hypericum or St. John’s Wort/ author: Andre Karwath

The herbal supplement, St. John’s Wort is not effective in alleviating symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents.

That is the finding of a newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Headlines disparaging natural alternatives have less credibility when funding for the study comes from a major pharmaceutical company, which has no love for natural medicine.

But what makes this study unusual is that it was done by Bastyr University researchers in Kenmore, Washington. Bastyr is one of the leading academic institutions for natural health sciences in the U.S.

This is the first scientific research on the effectiveness of extracts from St. John’s Wort, which also goes by the name goat weed, hypericum, and Klamath weed.

The flowering tops are used to make teas and extracts and the plant has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders, nerve pain, depression, anxiety, malaria, wounds, burns, and insect bites. Its medicinal properties were recorded in ancient Greece.

Bastyr researchers report that following an eight-week randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, children ages 6 through 17 had no additional benefit over a placebo for treating symptoms of ADHD.

The herb was not studied when patients use other botanicals, vitamins, or supplements to treat ADHD.

The findings are significant, says Wendy Weber, naturopathic doctor, PhD and MPH, who was the principal investigator.

"Our results indicate that one of the most common, self-prescribed treatments for ADHD in children and adolescents is not effective. We hope the results of our study will prevent potential drug interactions which can be associated with St. John's Wort by encouraging parents to not give it to their child to alleviate ADHD symptoms.”

St. John’s Wort may interact with other drugs. It affects how the body breaks down many drugs such as antidepressants, birth control pills and Warfarin, among others. It may also make a person increasingly sensitive to sunlight.

There is some evidence that St. John’s Wort is effective in treating mild to moderate depression; however it has not been found effective in treating major depression. The most common use of the herb is to treat depression, regardless of the conflicting opinion of its effectiveness.

The plant works by blocking nerve cells in the brain from absorbing serotonin, the chemical messenger that plays a large role in depression, and anxiety. Serotonin levels have no impact on ADHD.

Up to 30 percent of children do not respond to pharmaceuticals for ADHD and many parents have turned to natural substances to try and quiet their kids.

Dietary changes, massage, avoidance of food colorings and genetically engineered (GE or GMO) foods, which are contained in 70 percent of grocery store processed foods, are some of the alternatives to pharmaceuticals.

Immersing a child in nature has also been found to calm down a hyperactive child.

ADHD affects up to 12 percent of children in the U.S.

Bastyr is a pioneer in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research, and now in researching natural health options. Over 40 research studies are underway, including botanicals and homeopathic medicine.

In 2002, the university was awarded a grant by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) for training. It is the first such grant offered to a CAM institution. #

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