St John’s Wort, a herb commonly used for depression, can produce the same adverse reactions as common antidepressants, Australian researchers have warned.

Although most patients won’t experience any adverse event, their study shows the herbal treatment can cause dangerous increases in body temperature and blood pressure.

In fact, the adverse reactions are the same as those associated with the prescription antidepressant fluoxetine (e.g. Prozac, Lovan), say the researchers from Adelaide University.

The majority of adverse drug reactions to St John’s Wort and fluoxetine affect the central nervous system, the researchers write.

Anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, vomiting, amnesia and aggressive behaviour are also common in users of both fluoxetine and St John’s Wort.

While the study shows there are fewer confirmed cases of side effects for St John’s Wort,  the researchers attribute this to lower take-up rates.

Also, they note adverse reactions from herbal preparations are often under-reported.

However, study author and pharmacologist Dr Ian Musgrave points out most people taking St John’s Wort won’t have any adverse reactions.

Nonetheless, he says that based on this research he’d like to see bottles “containing improved warnings of the potential adverse reactions”.

Last Reviewed: 02/07/2015

Reproduced with kind permission from 6minutes.com.au.



References

A comparison of patterns of spontaneous adverse drug reaction reporting with St. John's Wort and fluoxetine during the period 2000-2013