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Panic Disorder & St. John's Wort

By Glenda Taylor

If you experience intense attacks of unreasonable fear, you may suffer from panic disorder. Panic attacks are unpredictable and may occur without warning, affecting your mood and your physical body. Symptoms include extreme fear, dizziness, nausea, choking, trembling, a racing heart, chest pain and difficulty breathing. St. John’s wort may offer some relief and is available in herbal remedies, but the FDA does not oversee herbal remedies, so talk to your doctor before using St. John’s wort to treat a panic disorder.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort grows in many places, including the United States. Found along roadsides and in sunny pastures, this herb has a long history of use in treating medical conditions, according to the “Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine.” Romans used St. John’s wort to speed the healing of battle wounds and to ease tension. Herbalists value the leaves and the bright yellow flowers, harvesting and drying the plant for use in teas, tinctures, capsules and tablets.

Potential Herbal Benefits

As an herbal remedy, St. John’s wort may reduce nervousness, anxiety and depression, due to the presence of hypericin, but the quality and safety of herbal remedies varies greatly, so there is no guarantee of effectiveness. The herb is readily available in health food stores and may be combined with other sedative-type herbs, such as valerian, for a greater calming effect.

Commercial Products

According to Medicor Labs, the maker of Clarocet products, St. John’s wort may be beneficial in promoting a positive mood balance, due to its potential ability to balance neurotransmitters in the brain. Positive effects from taking products that contain St. John’s wort may be cumulative, and you may have to take the herb for up to six weeks before you experience benefits. Scientifically acceptable clinical studies verifying these benefits are not available.

Considerations

Although St. John’s wort may offer relief from the anxiety that can trigger panic attacks, it can also produce undesirable and potentially dangerous side effects. Children, pregnant women and nursing mothers should not take herbal remedies that contain St. John’s wort, according to the “Gale Encyclopedia.” Use of the herb may trigger serotonin syndrome, a serious condition that may alter behavior and affect consciousness in some people. In addition, St. John’s wort may interfere with other medications. Because St. John’s wort presents potential dangers, your doctor must oversee the use of the herb as part of an overall treatment program for reducing panic disorders.

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