Disclaimer: I am not in any way suggesting a medical course of action for anyone. I am not a doctor. I am writing about my personal experience.
Like a lot of other Pagans, I’m not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals. Not that I never take them–sometimes that pulsing pain in my head just needs an aspirin–but when possible I prefer going a more natural route. Last month, frustrated with the funk that started when we lost our daughters, I decided to give St John’s Wort a try. I’d read that St John’s Wort can be helpful as a mood stabilizer, but without some of the repercussions of chemical drugs.
St John’s Wort is a yellow flower thusly named because it blooms around June 24th, the birthday celebration of St. John the Baptist. (“Wort” means “plant” in Old English.) It has a colorful history of magical use. According to an old poem, it supposedly can be used to drive off witches. “Any devils and witches have no power to harm/Those that gather the plant for a charm.” So if you’re opposed to witches and want to cast a spell to do something about that you’re…ironic. But St. John’s Wort is apparently a good way to go! It’s been used in exorcisms, too, as well as as a safeguard against storms and lightning, and in divination to determine longevity. One old Welsh story tells about women hanging sprigs over their beds and checking them in the morning for the most wilted–one way of predicting who would die first! *Gulp!*
As far as medical uses go, St John’s Wort has been used at least since Ancient Greece and is one of the most studied herbal remedies on the market. According to the National Institute of Health, it has been shown likely effective for treating mild to moderate depression, among other things. A big note of caution, however: it has been shown to render many other medicines–particularly birth control pills!–ineffective. If you are considering trying it yourself, make sure you look up drug interactions because there are a whole lot of them!
I’m not taking any medicines, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to add to my diet and exercise regime. Don’t forget, a good diet and regular exercise are very important to anyone battling the blues, so don’t take a pill and neglect these vital habits! (*Note to self: add “exercise” to today’s agenda. It appears to be missing…*) I got Nutrigold brand and started taking the three-pill-a-day recommended dose. So far I’m impressed. I noticed a change in my attitude in about a day. It just seems a little easier to stay even-keel. I don’t feel fuzzy-headed or like I’m emotionally suppressed in any way; I just feel like some of the gloom is gone. My plan is to keep the full dosage for about a month, then start reducing slowly. If I feel like my symptoms are coming back, I’ll re-up the dosage.
I know that this is a temporary melancholy brought on by my grief over losing the girls. I’m seeing a counselor for it and have wonderful friends who are always there for me. Everything’s going to be okay. But anytime something crazy like this happens, there’s going to be a period of mourning. And so far, St John’s Wort seems to be an effective tool for helping me bridge the time it takes to heal.
If anyone has any advice or suggestions for me or even of our readers who may be going through one of life’s down-phases, I’d love to hear them!
+ Featured Image: “Western St. John’s wort (Hypericum formosum), stems with opposite simple leaves, flower, bud, and developing capsules. At 5,400 feet (1,600 m) along Lower Rock Creek, Mono County, California USA” by Dcrjsr