Depression, Anxiety, the Female Menopause & St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort contains the constituents: Hypericum and hyperforin and its these two that are considered to be the most active ingredients.
Also included are flavones, flavonols, glycosides, essential oil, resins, tannins and pectin.
This herb is considered to work in a similar way to antidepressant medicines by affecting the levels of the neurotransmitters Melatonin and Serotonin.
This is interesting when considering the problem of Depression.
Let’s take a short look at Serotonin and Melatonin:
Serotonin is responsible for sending messages between nerve cells, and for producing responses.
Melatonin plays an important part in regulating our body clock, which controls the release of hormones, body temperature and sleep pattern. These two perform opposite jobs and together bring about a balance, a harmony, a calming effect.
Serotonin is often described as the body’s ‘natural happiness hormone’ and is the pre-curser to Melatonin, (Serotonin produces the main source of the body’s Melatonin, the greatest source is found in the Pineal Gland). Serotonin is the ‘feel-good’ hormone; it is when this hormone level in the brain drops below a certain level, that some types of Depression can be triggered, giving rise to lethargy which can then affect the loss of energy and sleep problems.
Melatonin is produced in the Pineal Gland during darkness or when in a very dark environment, and is hugely important to body rhythm. Darkness causes messages from the eyes to the brain to say that more Melatonin should be produced; Melatonin puts the brain and body into a sleep ready state.
Production of Melatonin can be triggered by closing the eyes in a darkened room or/and using an eye mask. Sleep produces restorative processes in both mind and body, without it our bodily rhythms may be out of synchronisation.
Medical doctors usually prescribe anti-depressants and sleeping medication to treat, what they have named as ‘clinical depression’.
A Herbal practitioner might consider some herbs to counteract the non-production of Serotonin, and up to 10 years ago, one herb considered by Herbal practitioners to be of great use is St. John’s wort or Hypericum perforatum.
Used for thousands of years to combat what is today known as ‘depression’, a state many of us seem to slip into as we age, although it is now being accepted that depression can affect all ages. Depression may have other contributing causes which this article does not cover, although it may be worth looking at another article on here for help with depression as well as Herbal Medications. The article is called Mindfulness and is well worth taking a look at.
As the ageing process kicks in, the female reproductive system begins the shutdown of certain hormones which are manufactured by the brain, best well known of these is the hormone oestrogen, which causes the ovaries to cease production of eggs and eventually stops menstruation; known as the female menopause.
This causes physical and mental changes in body and mind, although this is a perfectly normal female cycle that can herald a feeling of freedom in some; the beginning of a new phase in life. Yet in today’s ageist society it is often considered to be a downward spiral into old age and all that entails, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Consequences of the female menopause are varied and many and every female doesn’t have them all, we are all different individuals. But some of the main problems experienced are:
Hot sweats, especially at night, can come seemingly from nowhere, and can be so extreme it can feel at times as if, not only the body but the hair on the head is on fire, hot sweats are a particularly difficult problem to deal with and can last for years.
The timing of menstruation becomes erratic; it may become very light or very heavy for a time, and the frequency changes, eventually stopping altogether.
Sleeping difficulties often occur, and vaginal dryness and pain during sex can cause a loss of libido.
Headaches and mood swings along with anxiety and often what physicians would call, “Clinical Depression” (meaning the depression is the result of bodily functions rather than what's in the mind, as my doctor once said "no, you are not going mad!") as levels of serotonin and melatonin also fall with the levels of oestrogen.
Muscle aches and pains, palpitations and changes in body shape and weight can occur in some females, which can change the way we feel about ourselves.
All this sounds quite frightening, but it is the body changing as it ages, a normal body process as the age of bearing children comes to an end, and sometimes a change in lifestyle is required in order to allow this to happen naturally.
For some females, HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy may be an answer, but this is a delaying tactic rather than a cure, there is no real known cure for the ageing of the body.
Whereas a Holistic way of dealing with the female menopause is the same as dealing with any other change in body and mind, a matter of understanding what it is, why it’s happening, and looking for something that can help with the symptoms whilst the body undergoes changes that are inevitable. Here is where the herb St. John’s Wort, combined with other herbs can help.
The herb St. John’s Wort’s constituents can affect the production of Serotonin and therefore Melatonin, which, as we have said, causes an imbalance of some hormones to occur.
St. John’s Wort was, and still is, the herb of choice when considering herbal medications to help with changes in the results of the reduction of hormone production that comes with the female menopause.
St. John’s wort can be added to other herbs in this instance, herbs such as Black Cohosh
(Cimicifuga racemosa), Sage (Salvia officinalis) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), these four herbs, when used together, can form an
exceptional recipe for relief of the symptoms of the menopause.
The problem is that the UK government has declared St. Johns wort to be a ‘dangerous herb’, perhaps what they mean is that the herb requires understanding before use; sadly the UK government and the subject of Herbal Medications do not have a happy co-existence, leading the banning of some herbs as dangerous, when in fact, not enough research has been done to allow proper knowledge of safe usage of said herbs.
Yet such herbs have been used for thousands of years by cunning folk in giving aid during ‘the female menopause’ to help the female to enter into their place as an elder of societies of the time, holding a great deal of wisdom from a lifetime of experiences, perhaps it’s time society realised that the wealth of knowledge sitting hidden in the mind of the elderly sit mainly ignored and ultimately lost. A very sad state in my opinion.
The much-maligned herb St. Johns Wort is definitely worth another look where Depression and the Female Menopause is concerned!
Please research any herb before using, and do as our elders did in olden days, try a little at a time and see how it affects the self. I personally underwent the female menopause and used the recipe above, and a mindset that this was a perfectly natural bodily function. Whilst I am not qualified to advise anyone on the use of herbs, I found it very useful.