CantarionCantarion is a bushy perennial plant with yellow flowers that grows all over the world. It got its ”other” name, St. John’s Wort, because it blooms around June 24, which is a day when we celebrate a remembrance of the saint of John the Baptist.

For centuries, cantarion was used to calm the nerves and heal wounds and burns. Nutritional supplements are made from dried flowers that contain many active ingredients including pigment hypericin and hyperforin.

How does it work?

Cantarion is most commonly used to treat mild depression. Scientists are not entirely sure how this plant works, but it is considered that it improves the mood by increasing the level of at least four information transmitters in the brain, including serotonin.

MAIN USEFUL EFFECTS: studies shown that, in treating mild to moderate depression, this plant is as effective as standard antidepressants, and more effective than placebo. (Some studies have tried to determine the efficacy of this plant and in the more severe forms of depression.)

Cantarion can also help in many conditions associated with depression, such as stress, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic pain. It would seem that this plant could also have a direct effect on pain relief. Cantarion improves sleep and is particularly useful in cases of depression where fatigue, insomnia and lack of energy dominate. It can also help with ”seasonal depression”, a disorder of depression that appears in the fall and winter and spontaneously disappears in the spring and summer when the sun shines brighter. Some people refuse to use standard antidepressants due to their possible side effects, especially the weakening of sexual function.

Cantarion has much less side effects. In addition, there seems to be no interaction with most drugs, which is also beneficial for older people who often need to take a few medicines at the same time.

ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: cantarion acts against bacteria and viruses. It appears to be useful in cases of infection with Herpes simplex virus, flu and in cases of infection with the Epstein-Barro virus (cause of infection mononucleosis); initial researches talk about a possible role in the treatment of AIDS. This plant improves liver function, and can also help in weight loss. Local application of fat made from cantarion alleviates burning sensation and itching in people with hemorrhoids.

How to take it?

DOSAGE: it is recommended to take 300 mg of cantarion extract, standardized to contain 0.3% of hypericin, three times a day. You can also find preparations that contain 900 ug of hypericin; they are taken once a day.

USE GUIDELINES: in order to reduce the possibility of stomach irritation, take cantarion preparations with food. In the past, people were advised to avoid these preparations (as well as certain antidepressants) with certain types of food, such as cheeses and red wine. Today, however, it is believed that they are completely safe.

Like antidepressants, cantarion has to accumulate in the body to show the effect, and it may take up to four weeks. It can be taken for a long time. Talk to your doctor before any possible combination of cantarion and antidepressants. Side effects are rare, but your doctor will not be able to distinguish them unless you tell him what medicines you are taking.

No adverse effects were reported in pregnant and breastfeeding women, but caution is still needed because not many tests were done in these groups.

Possible side effects

Although rare, constipation, stomach problems, tiredness, dry mouth and dizziness cansometimes occur. People with light skin should not be exposed to sunlight for long time when they’re taking this medicine. Larger doses of cantarion preparations (doses that contain more than 900 ug of hypericin per day) reduce the concentration of some medicines in the blood, so consult your doctor if you are taking any other medicines.

IMPORTANT: if you are already taking some antidepressants, be sure to consult your doctor before taking cantarion preparation. Stop taking it if rash, allergy or headache occur; if you experience breathing difficulties, seek medical help immediately.