St. John’s Wort vs. Birth Control

St. John’s Wort is a common herb and is often used as an all-natural treatment for conditions such as mild to moderate depression, anxiety, mood stability and even insomnia. There is also evidence that St. John’s Wort in ointment form can help with wound healing and improve the look of scars. While the benefits and uses of St. John’s Wort are widely known, there is one very important aspect of the herb that is not well known, and is incredibly important for women.

Most women take some form of birth control for many different reasons. Many brands of common birth control pills contain estrogen, which the body naturally breaks down. There is evidence that St. John's Wort increases the breakdown of estrogen in birth control pills. The result? Taking St. John's Wort along with birth control pills can decrease the effectiveness of the pills. So if you take birth control pills along with St. John's Wort, it is recommended to use an additional form of birth control such as a condom.

Because St. John’s Wort is a natural substance and does not require a prescription, any adverse drug interactions are not commonly known, nor are they relayed to the people buying them.

I took St. John’s Wort for a while, and didn’t know about this adverse interaction. When I found out, I was pretty bummed. I thought, “Great, either I’m sad or I’m pregnant”. But there are other natural options out there for mild to moderate depression that don’t come with drug interactions: from vitamin B6, magnesium, and folic acid to regular exercise and light therapy. Personally, I’m amazed at how much better just twenty minutes of exercise every other day can make me feel; and conversely, how I can slip into a funk if I skip more than three days.

Reminder, this is for mild to moderate depression. For severe cases, prescription medication and counseling may be necessary. St. John’s Wort can even worsen symptoms in severe cases. If you do decide to go the natural route, make sure you read the labels and do the research before you start, as no one will tell you at the Walgreens check-out counter! 

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