The herbal remedy St John’s Wort can produce the same adverse reactions as antidepressants and serious side effects can occur when the two are taken together, warn Australian researchers.
A team from University of Adelaide compared reported adverse drug reactions to St John’s Wort, which is often marketed a remedy for symptoms of mild depression, and the antidepressant fluoxetine.
“We found that the reported reactions for St John’s Wort were very similar to fluoxetine”
They found the adverse reactions were the same for people who took St John’s Wort as they were for those who took fluoxetine.
The study, published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, looked at adverse drug reaction reports made to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration between 2000 and 2013.
Lead author and PhD student Claire Hoban said: “We found 84 reports of adverse reactions to St John’s Wort and 447 to fluoxetine.
“While there were fewer confirmed cases of side effects for St John’s Wort, we know that less people use St John’s Wort and adverse reactions for herbal medicines largely go unreported because they are not considered drugs.
“Furthermore, we found that the reported reactions for St John’s Wort were very similar to fluoxetine, which included anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, vomiting, amnesia and aggression, she said.
Ms Hoban added: “There is a common belief that because something is natural and can be purchased from a health food shop without a prescription, it’s safe.
“However, people need to start thinking of St John’s Wort, and other herbal medicines, as a drug.”