Hypericum ( Hypericum perforatum ) is a plant of the Hypericaceae family, whose name derives from the Greek hyper-eikon, that is, a plant that grows on old statues. Better known as devil-hunting herb because it was believed to have the ability to hunt evil spirits and ghosts, it is also called St. John’s wort. The flowering tops of hypericum are rich in flavonoids and have an antidepressant and sedative action. Let’s find out more about the characteristics and side effects of hypericum .
Hypericum: characteristics and properties
Hypericum is a plant with an erect, woody and branched stem, whose leaves are flecked with tiny transparent glands that contain an essential oil. The flowers are of an intense yellow color and are gathered in a sort of corymb.
The flowering tops of hypericum contain hypericin, rutin, quercetin and hyperoside, flavonoids with a strong antidepressant and sedative action, which are obtained from the dry extract or from the mother tincture of hypericum.
Hypericin, in particular, increases the nocturnal secretion of melatonin, helping against insomnia. It is also able to increase the serotonin levels, similar to certain antidepressant drugs, rebalancing the mood.
From hypericum it is also possible to obtain an infusion, used against cough and cystitis, thanks to its balsamic, antibacterial, anti-catarrhal and anti-inflammatory activity.
Even the hypericum oil, obtained from the maceration of fresh flowering tops in almond oil, is widely used for its healing and emollient properties, useful against burns, solar erythema, psoriasis and skin aging.
The side effects of Hypericum
Hypericum is, in principle, a safe vegetable, but it can present some side effects such as photosensitivity during exposure to sunlight. During the intake period, therefore, it is good to avoid exposure to the sun and / or tanning lamps.
The other more common side effects of St. John’s wort are:
- dry mouth,
- diarrhea and nausea,
Hypericum can also interact with some medications , such as:
- Warfarin, decreasing the anticoagulant effect,
- Ciclosporin by lowering blood levels,
- Oral contraceptives, reducing their effect,
- synthetic antidepressants, enhancing their effects.
It is therefore advisable to always take it with caution and to consult a specialist before taking it.