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How to Obtain Research-Grade Hypericum

Unlike prescription or generic drugs, herbal preparations are sold in a variety of formulations and methods of extraction. When you buy aspirin, you know you're getting aspirin, no matter which brand name you buy. When you buy hypericum or St. John's wort, you don't know exactly what you're getting.

A company can grind up the dried Hypericum perforatum plant, put it into capsules, and quite rightly call it "hypericum" or "St. John's wort." This is, however, not the method of preparation for the research-grade hypericum used in the majority of medical studies on hypericum and depression. In time, medical research may show that ground-up Hypericum perforatum is just as effective in treating depression as other methods of extraction. As of now, however, only one method of preparation has been medically proven to be successful.

The method, briefly, is to take the flowering and leafy portions of the Hypericum perforatum plant, dry them, and use alcohol to dissolve the useful elements from the plant. When the alcohol evaporates, the extract remains. The extract is then tested and adjusted so that the strength of each batch of extract is uniform. This method is generally known as alcohol extraction. There is no alcohol in the finished product, but alcohol is necessary to extract the medically useful chemicals from the plant.

With Hypericum perforatum, the chemicals believed to be most useful for the treatment of depression are obtained through alcohol extraction. This is why a tea made from St. John's wort ("water extraction") may not be as effective. No studies have been performed to explore the effectiveness of hypericum tea on depression. (The medicinal chemicals of Hypericum perforatum also dissolve well in oil, hence the herbal medicine olive-oil-based preparations for treating external injuries.)

Of the many chemicals known to exist naturally in Hypericum perforatum, it is not yet known precisely which -- or which combination -- is responsible for the successful treatment of depression. Future medical studies may isolate which of these chemicals and in what combination most successfully treat depression.

Until that time, those seeking to duplicate the success of the medical studies reported in this book are advised to use the same extract formulation used in the majority of those studies. (This formula is usually referred to in the medical studies as LI 160 and under the German brand name Jarsin or Jarsin 300. Jarsin and Jarsin 300 are not currently available in North America under those trade names.)

Fortunately, this formulation is available under a number of brand names in the United States and Canada, sold both by mail and through retail outlets. With the increased interest in treating depression with hypericum, the number of products will rise and we will include them in future printings of this book.

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Copyright © 1996,1997 by Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D. and Peter McWilliams