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Mood Supplements with Potential continued...

St. John’s Wort

Around for centuries, St. John’s wort is commonly used today for sleep disorders, anxiety, and mild to moderate depression. However, an analysis of 37 clinical trials found that St. John’s wort may have minimal to no benefit for those with more severe forms of depression.

Although more research is needed, St. John’s wort may also have the potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or perimenopausal mood changes.

Available as capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and teas, a typical dose of St. John’s wort ranges from 900 to 1,200 milligrams a day, and it should be taken for at least one to three months, just as with pharmaceutical anti-depressants, to see the best effect.

St. John’s wort does have the potential for serious interactions with a wide variety of prescription drugs, including birth control pills, antidepressants, HIV medications, and blood thinners. It can also interact with other herbs or supplements. Mainly, it may lower the effectiveness of certain medications, Fugh-Berman tells WebMD. St. John’s wort may also lead to an increase in side effects when taken with pharmaceutical antidepressants.

Consult a doctor or pharmacist about interactions before using St. John’s wort. Although uncommon, side effects of St. John’s wort may include:

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Skin reactions, especially when exposed to sun
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth

SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)

SAMe has been studied a lot for depression. Although current trials are not conclusive, an analysis of 28 studies showed that SAMe produced statistically significant improvement in the symptoms of depression when compared to a placebo. Some studies have shown that improvements were comparable to conventional antidepressants, such as the class of medications called tricyclic antidepressants.

Emmons suggests SAMe for those with a type of depression that produces low energy. He prescribes 400 to 800 milligrams daily, depending upon need or tolerance. The dose most often used for depression in clinical studies is 800 to 1,600 milligrams daily for up to 6 weeks.

Although SAMe usually causes few problems, you should use caution if you have diabetes, low blood sugar, or an anxiety or other type of psychiatric disorder. Gastrointestinal problems, headaches, fatigue, and skin rashes are the most common side effects.

Mood Enhancers That May Be Unsafe

Kava kava. A ceremonial beverage used commonly in the Pacific Islands, kava kava earned its claim to fame as an herb that’s very helpful for anxiety. Unfortunately, kava kava has largely fallen out of favor because concentrated forms for sale in the U.S. have been associated with a rare risk of significant liver problems.

According to the FDA, you should consult a doctor before using kava if you have liver disease or are taking drugs that affect the liver. Likewise, you should see your doctor if you experience any signs of liver illness after taking a kava supplement.

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