The results of a new study indicate that St. John’s wort, an herbal remedy often used to treat depression, does not have the same beneficial effects on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as other antidepressants.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, was published this month in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The goal of the study was to see if St. John’s wort could be used to treat IBS, similar to the way that doctors often use antidepressants to treat IBS. However, researchers found that St. John’s wort did not perform even as well as a placebo in treating IBS.
The findings of the new study are the second blow to the use of St. John’s wort as an herbal remedy in recent months. In November, a study published in the medical journal Current Eye Research raised concerns about a potential increased risk of cataracts from St. John’s wort side effects.
St. John’s wort is a European weed whose extracts are used as an herbal treatment for depression. It is usually taken either as a tablet or as an herbal tea.
In the latest study, researchers conducted a 12-week clinical trial with 70 participants to study the ability of St. John’s wort to alleviate IBS symptoms. Doctors commonly prescribe antidepressants to treat IBS, because some of the chemical neurotransmitters in the brain that affect depression can also be found in the colon.
Since St. John’s wort is heralded as an herbal antidepressant, scientists wanted to see if it could also work as an IBS treatment. However, only 51% of study participants said they felt some alleviation of IBS symptoms when given St. John’s wort, compared to 54% of participants who were actually given a sugar pill instead.
“Our results do not support that SJW is useful in IBS and even suggest that its use should be discouraged in IBS sufferers,” researchers concluded.
IBS is a stomach disorder that causes cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Most sufferers of IBS are women, and it affects an estimated 10-22% of the U.S. population. Researchers say that the lack of a medical cure for IBS has turned many people to alternative therapies and medicines.