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St. John’s wort

Hypericum perforatum

Another possible mechanism of action for St. John’s wort’s antidepressant activity

St. John’s wort has demonstrated favorable results in the treatment of mild to moderate depression in clinical studies, but the herb’s mechanism of action remains unclear. Previous research has shown that the extract inhibits synaptosomal uptake of serotonin, leading some to suspect that it works in the same manner as the synthetic antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In the present study, researchers verified that St. John’s wort extract did, in fact, inhibit serotonin accumulation in rat brain cortical synaptosomes. However, its mechanism of action appeared to be more closely related to that of reserpine-like compounds than to classic SSRIs in that it depletes storage vesicles of serotonin, thereby raising serotonin concentrations and resulting in apparent reuptake inhibition.

Gobbi M, Dalla Valle F, Ciapparelli C, et al. Hypericum perforatum L. extract does not inhibit 5-HT transporter in rat brain cortex. Arch Pharmacol 1999; 360: 262-269.

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