St. John’s wort doesn’t ease irritable bowel syndrome

By Sheryl Kay • Published: April 29th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It certainly isn’t appropriate party talk and is usually avoided in almost all conversations. But the fact is, irritable bowel syndrome is a widespread affliction, affecting almost one in five people in the US and leaving its victims with cramping, pain and bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

The disease has often been linked to depression and successfully treated with anti-anxiety medications. So in the hope of finding another similar yet over-the-counter remedy for the gastric ailment, researchers recently looked to St. John’s Wort, the popular herbal supplement that has been shown to help alleviate depression.

Mayo Clinic researchers evaluated seventy patients ages eighteen to seventy and published their findings in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. All the patients were diagnosed with IBS.

Over a twelve-week period, half were treated with two daily doses of St. John’s Wort while the other half were given placebos, and all patients were monitored biweekly for symptom relief. At the conclusion researchers found that while both groups had no side effects and each experienced a degree of improvement, the placebo group actually improved more, winding up with far fewer IBS symptoms than the herbal supplement group. The researchers also found that more patients in the placebo group reported a readiness to continue taking their treatment, compared with those in the St. John’s Wort group.

The doctors reiterated support for the scientific data pointing to the anxiety-relieving properties of the herbal supplement, and they acknowledge that patients would prefer a low-cost, over-the-counter treatment. But relative to irritable bowel syndrome, they suggested patients avoid St. John’s Wort.