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Is St. Johns Wort Appropriate for Treating Your Child’s Depression?

What Parents Should Know About St. John's Wort

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Updated January 27, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If your child has been diagnosed with depression or has depressive symptoms, you may wonder if the natural herb St. John's wort might be appropriate for her. While studies on St. John's wort and depression have been conducted on children, there is still not enough information to determine its effectiveness and safety for treating childhood depression.

What Is St. John's Wort?

St. John's wort is an over-the-counter natural herb also known as Hypericum perforatum. People have reported using St. John's wort for a variety of symptoms and disorders including, depression, nerve pain, sleep problems and anxiety. It has even been studied in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

Is it Appropriate for My Child's Depression?

According the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, St. John's wort is not a proven effective treatment for depression. However, other studies have shown it to be effective in the treatment of depressive symptoms in adults. The bottom line is that more research is needed to determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of St. John's wort in the treatment of childhood depression.

  • More: St. John's Wort -- What Research Says About Effectiveness and Safety

Medication Interactions

In February of 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Public Health Advisory that St. John's wort can interfere with certain medications used to treat depression, heart disease, seizures, certain cancers, organ transplant rejection, and oral contraceptives.

Be sure to tell your child's pediatrician or psychiatrist all medications, herbal supplements and vitamins that your child is taking or that you are considering -- St. John's wort or otherwise.

Side Effects

Even natural remedies have side effects. St. John's wort may cause sensitivity to sunlight; dry mouth; dizziness; stomach upset; fatigue; headache; or anxiety.

Discuss With a Professional

As a parent, you want to find the safest and most effective treatment for your child. So talk to your child's pediatrician or psychiatrist about St. Johns 1ort before giving it to her. A physician can discuss the risks and benefits and determine the best treatment options for your child's specific circumstances.

If you are unsure if your child's symptoms are part of a depressive disorder, have your child evaluated by her pediatrician or other mental health professional before trying any natural remedies. Once a cause of your child's symptoms have been determined, you can work with your child's physician to find the right treatment.

Sources:

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) Medline Plus. Accessed: August 16, 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-stjohnswort.html

St. John's Wort. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Accessed: August 18, 2010. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/

Wendy Weber, ND, PhD, MPH, Ann Vander Stoep, PhD, Rachelle L. McCarty, ND, MPH, Noel S. Weiss, MD, DrPH, Joseph Biederman, MD, and Jon McClellan, MD. "A Randomized Placebo Controlled Trial Of Hypericum perforatum for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents." Journal of The American Medical Association. June 11, 2008 299(22): 2633-2641.

What Medications are Used to Treat Depression? National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed: 08/18/2010. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/what-medications-are-used-to-treat-depression.shtml

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