Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
March 9, 1999


A research team in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the Emory University School of Medicine is among 12 groups chosen to conduct the nation's first multicenter clinical trial of St. John's wort for depression.

"Research conducted in Europe suggests this herbal remedy has the potential to relieve depression without some of the side effects of pharmaceutical antidepressants," says Emory investigator Jeffrey Kelsey, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory. "Still, the botanical's own side effects must be rigorously evaluated as well as its true effect on mood."

Study participants will be randomly assigned to take either St. John's wort, a placebo (sugar) pill or the approved antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft) for about six months. The study is funded by the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health.

Although St. John's wort is the most widely prescribed antidepressant in Germany and prescribed throughout Europe for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, it has not been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

"Many health food stores in this country sell it as a dietary supplement, but FDA does not allow any antidepressant claims because it has not been proven to be a safe and effective drug for this use," according to a feature on depression in the July-August 1998 issue of FDA Consumer magazine.

St. John's wort is made from extracts of Hypericum perforatum, a plant native to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa that blooms in late June, close to the birthday of

St. John the Baptist on the 24th. The plant is known as Klamath weed in Oregon and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest where it has begun to grow wild.

Emory researchers currently are recruiting persons for the study who are over 18 years of age and have moderate to severe depression. Volunteers will be asked to visit Emory's Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at least every few weeks during a six-month period. All psychological testing, physical exams and medication associated with the study will be provided at no cost.

The program is located at Wesley Woods Health Center, 1841 Clifton Rd., N.E., 4th floor. For information, call 404/ 727-8968 or visit the program's website at:


(NOTE TO REPORTERS: Probably the most cited paper on St. John's wort research is the below referenced paper from the British Medical Journal: Linde K., Ramirez G., Mulrow C.D., et al "St. John's Wort for Depression ­ An Overview and Meta-analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials" BMJ, 1996:313:253-258 (3 August). Full text link:

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