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December 2023
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One of These Things Is Not Like the Other…

Why Was St. John’s Wort Used to Treat IBS?

St. John's wort has long been considered effective for treating mood disorders.  So why would it all of a sudden be considered effective for treating gastrointestinal disorders?

St. John's wort has long been considered effective for treating mood disorders. So why would it all of a sudden be considered effective for treating gastrointestinal disorders?

Sometimes I’m amazed at what makes health headlines.  For instance, if an herb, supplement or medication is disproved as an effective treatment for a certain condition, after years of being considered effective, then that warrants a story.  But if an herb or supplement is tested to treat a condition that it was never meant to treat, and that herb turns out to be ineffective, is that really worthy of a news story?

Perhaps an explanation will better explain what I mean.  According to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, St. John’s wort is an effective herb in the treatment of IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome.

And?  You mean, that’s it?  That’s what the news is—that St. Johns wort shouldn’t be used to treat irritable bowel syndrome?

What will they tell us next—that sticking your hands in the snow doesn’t relieve frostbite?  That the Double Cheeseburger Diet doesn’t trim the waistline?  That candy isn’t good for your teeth?  That the best way to reduce stress is to seek out stressful situations?

St. John’s wort has never been used to treat gastrointestinal problems.  Never. Hundreds of studies point to its effectiveness in treating mood and behavior disorders (like depression and ADHD), but it’s never been considered effective for treating gastrointestinal problems.

It’s like going to see a podiatrist for a broken nose, or a proctologist for an ear infection.  It doesn’t make sense, so why do it?

Now, granted, supplements, herbs and medications are tried and tested on various conditions all the time.  It’s part of the process of elimination in widdling down what supplements do and don’t work for various conditions.  But some things should be clear at the outset that they won’t be effective for a certain treatment.  And the notion that St. Johns wort would be an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome—call me crazy—is a bit of a stretch.

That’s not to say St. John’s wort is an ineffective herb.  It’s a very effective herb for depression, as noted by scientists in the prestigious Cochrane Report and several other respected journals.  But irritable bowel syndrome and depression are apples and oranges in how they impact the body and what supplements are considered effective for treatment.

For irritable bowel syndrome, you want to take supplements that improve digestion and absorption.  So concentrate on things like L-glutamine, fiber and peppermint.  For depression, concentrate on taking things that naturally stimulates a greater production of serotonin and dopamine.  These things include—you guessed it—St. John’s wort, but also 5-HTP and Nicotinamide, or NADH.

Balch, Phyllis A.  “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.”  4th Edition.  2006.  Avery:  New York

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