St. John’s wort is an herbal extract that has a large body of research supporting its use for treating depression. It’s been studied as an alternative to more traditional antidepressants, and some scientific work even supports it for other conditions like chronic fatigue.
In addition to its effects on your brain, it may also have anti-inflammatory effects, making it useful for treating arthritis and other inflammation-related conditions.
Looking for the top St. John’s wort supplements on the market? Our research team has evaluated, reviewed, and ranked the ten best you can buy.
1. Gaia Herbs St. John's Wort
Gaia Herbs St. John's Wort provides 450 mg of raw flower bud material per capsule, which is standardized to contain 0.9 mg of hypericum, the active ingredient in St. John’s wort, per capsule.
The super-clean and simple supplement design makes this an excellent choice for anyone who’s conscientious about extra additives and fillers in their supplements, and combined with its solid dosage, makes it our number one pick.
2. Pure Mountain Botanicals St. John's Wort
Pure Mountain Botanicals St. John's Wort provides a solid 450 mg dosage of raw plant material and a standardized 0.9 mg dosage of hypericum.
This comes alongside a very pure and vegan-friendly capsule, with zero additional ingredients aside from cellulose to make up the capsule. It’s a strong choice if you want a quality St. John’s wort supplement.
3. Health Harmony St. John's Wort
Health Harmony St. John's Wort provides a solid dosage of St. John’s Wort. Each capsule provides 300 mg of extract, plus 200 mg of St. John’s wort powder.
The effective dosage is 0.9 mg of hypericum, which is in line with what’s used in a lot of clinical research. The supplement design has a few extra fillers and binders, but aside from this, it’s a pretty good product.
4. NOW St. John's Wort
NOW St. John's Wort is a pretty straightforward source of St. John’s wort. With 300 mg of aerial plant extract per capsule, and 250 capsules per bottle, it’s an easy way to get a large supply of St. John’s wort for long-term use.
5. Solaray St. John's Wort One Daily
Solaray St. John's Wort One Daily is a high-dose St. John’s wort supplement that delivers 900 mg of extract per capsule.
This means you’ll get 2.7 mg of the active ingredient, hypericum, in every capsule. For those taking a higher dosage of this supplement, it’s an easy way to get all of your dosage in using just one tablet, but it hurts your ability to follow the protocol of some clinical trials, which split the dosage up into two or three tablets taken at different times of day.
6. VitaStrength St. John's Wort
VitaStrength St. John's Wort provides a standard mix of 300 mg of St John’s wort extract plus another 200 mg of powder, and like many other similar supplements, you’ll get 0.9 mg of hypericum per capsule.
The supplement design isn’t the cleanest; purists would likely prefer something without magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide, but as far as the active ingredients go, it’s still pretty good.
7. Nature’s Way St. John's Wort
Nature’s Way St. John's Wort has a strong dosage of 700 mg of St. John’s wort per capsule. The supplement design is very clean, with the only ingredient aside from St. John’s wort being the cellulose needed to make this vegan-friendly capsule.
The main downside to this supplement is that the hypericum content isn’t standardized, so it’s hard to determine the precise dosage of the active ingredient.
8. Oregon's Wild Harvest St. John's Wort
With 350 mg of raw plant material per capsule, and no additional ingredients aside from the cellulose capsule, Oregon's Wild Harvest St. John's Wort is a very pure and simple supplement.
The only downside is the hypericum content is not standardized, so the precise amount of active ingredients that you are getting isn’t completely clear.
9. Sundown Naturals Standardized St. John's Wort
Sundown Naturals Standardized St. John's Wort contains a pretty standard 300 mg dosage of the raw plant materials from St. John’s wort, with 0.9 mg of standardized hypericum content.
Though this is a solid dosage, this supplement is hurt by the presence of a lot of fillers and additives that you won’t find in other competitors.
10. Herb Pharm St. John's Wort
Herb Pharm provides St. John’s wort extract in a liquid form. The dosage is equivalent to approximately 460 mg of raw plant material per serving, though the actual hypericum content is not listed.
While some supplements work well in liquid form, St. John’s wort is not one of them. Because the dosing needs to be fairly precise, and because the active dose of hypericum is so small, the uncertainty associated with measuring out liquid-form supplements makes this not a very good choice for most people and most applications.
St. John’s wort benefits and side effects
St. John’s wort has a long history of use as an herbal treatment to improve mood and treat depression. It’s been the subject of a huge number of clinical trials, so its dosage ranges and side effect profiles are quite well-understood.
While it does have the potential for side effects and for interactions with other medications, it also has a robust base of research supporting its use as a treatment for depression.
Beyond this, it’s also been studied as an anti-inflammatory and as a treatment for chronic fatigue.
We’ll examine the science behind St. John’s wort for depression, fatigue, and beyond, and take a look at the potential side effects and the optimal dosage.
St. John’s wort has been successfully used to treat depression. Based on its long history as an herbal remedy, St. John’s wort has been examined intensively for its ability to improve the symptoms of depression.
A meta-analysis of all of the clinical trials to date was conducted in 2008 by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international team of medical researchers which reviews clinical research and makes evidence-based recommendations (1).
They looked at 29 different studies, which in total included over 5,000 people with depression. St. John’s wort compared favorably to placebos, with the pooled evidence showing significantly greater improvements in people on St. John’s wort supplements.
Further, St. John’s wort was found to be similarly effective to more commonly-prescribed antidepressant drugs like SSRIs—studies which compared an SSRI to a St. John’s wort supplement found no difference in outcomes.
St. John’s wort may have fewer side effects than traditional antidepressants. The same review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that St. John’s wort has fewer side effects compared to a traditional antidepressant.
SSRIs are known for a range of burdensome side effects, such as weight gain, nausea, dizziness, and deteriorations in sexual function (these can be so bad for men that many turn to male enhancement pills to address them).
In contrast, St. John’s wort tends to have, for most people, a lower risk and lower severity of side effects. One review study published in 1996 in the British Medical Journal looked at the incidence of side effects in people taking SSRIs versus people taking St. John’s wort (2).
The study reported that side effects occurred in 53% of patients on standard antidepressants, but only 20% of people taking St. John's wort.
We’ll look at the side effects profile of St. John’s wort in-depth later, but this simple reduction (over two-fold) of side effects is very encouraging.
St. John’s wort also acts as an anti-inflammatory. In addition to its well-documented antidepressant properties, St. John’s wort appears to fight against inflammation, which could make it useful for conditions like arthritis.
According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, the active ingredient in St. John’s wort inhibits specific biochemical pathways related to inflammation (3).
In this study, the researchers demonstrated that St. John's wort down-regulates specific DNA activity related to inflammation.
This has not yet led to clinical studies on treating inflammatory conditions like arthritis, but it indicates that such studies might be feasible.
Depression itself has been linked to inflammation, so this might explain the connection: a study published in 2009 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity demonstrated that depression is often associated with increased levels of biomarkers of whole-body inflammation (4).
It may be that reducing inflammation is part of how St. John’s wort aids in improving your mood and reducing depression.
St. John’s Wort could reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue is one condition that has been linked to both poor mental health and to overall inflammation, so it shouldn’t be surprising that St. John’s wort has been found to be beneficial for its treatment.
A study published in the journal Phytomedicine by a team of researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom described using the active ingredient in St. John’s wort for this purpose (5).
The study enrolled twenty patients with chronic fatigue symptoms and tracked their symptoms over the course of six weeks.
The researchers found that the patients all improved while taking the supplement, and connected this improvement with the presence of depression among nearly half the participants at the outset of the study.
While the benefits of St. John’s wort are impressive, it (like any treatment for depression) isn’t without the potential for side effects.
A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology examined the side effect profile of St. John's wort in detail (6). According to the authors, St. John’s wort has been associated with side effects including gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness, confusion, and tiredness.
In extremely rare cases, it has been associated with photosensitivity—the development of hypersensitive skin that burns or blisters in response to sunlight. However, these side effects are rare, and some of these side effects also occurred in placebo groups during clinical research.
St. John’s wort also has the potential to interact with prescription medication in undesired ways. One study, for example, described a number of cases of serious side effects in patients who were taking St. John’s wort in addition to normal antidepressants (7).
Because both St. John’s wort and a traditional SSRI act to increase serotonin levels in the brain, taking both together can cause serotonin levels to skyrocket to dangerous levels.
St. John’s wort also interacts with other medications, including birth control pills—when taken together, St. John’s wort can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives (8).
While St. John’s wort compares favorably to traditional medications used to treat depression on a number of fronts, it does have a number of potential side effects and interactions with other medications, so it’s best used under the supervision of a doctor.
Most clinical research on St. John’s wort has used standardized preparations that contain between 0.3 and 1 mg of the active compound, hypericum.
It takes several hundred milligrams of raw plant material to reach this dosage of the active ingredient, and a few studies have used doses measured in terms of raw plant extract, but the best option is to use a supplement that’s standardized for hypericum content.
Some studies have split the dosage into two or three separate capsules taken at different times of day, while others have not—there’s no clear advantage to one strategy or the other on this front.
St. John’s wort is a powerful herbal compound that’s been used to treat depression with the same efficacy and fewer side effects than traditional antidepressants.
Beyond its use in depression, it’s been explored as a treatment for chronic fatigue and it appears to exert some anti-inflammatory effects as well.
While it produces fewer side effects than a drug like an SSRI, it still has some side effects, like gastrointestinal disturbances, dizziness, tiredness, and, in rare cases, photosensitivity.
The more concerning part about St. John’s wort is its potential to interact with prescription medications, including SSRIs themselves. St. John’s wort should not be used in combination with any other antidepressant, and it’s best to consult your doctor before using St. John’s wort, particularly if you take a prescription medication.
When used properly, though, St. John’s wort appears to be a very effective supplement for improving the symptoms of depression.