BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. St. John's Wort is a popular and powerful herb which has
been found highly effective in combating depression. It is particularly popular
in Germany where prescriptions for 66 million daily doses were issued in 1994
alone. Very few side effects have been reported, but caution is advised when
switching to or from pharmaceutical antidepressants. Most St. John's Wort
products also carry a warning about avoiding excessive sunlight exposure. Dr.
Geoffrey Bove of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center now reports a case of
a 35-year-old woman who developed severe pain in her face, hands, arms, and legs
while taking St. John's Wort (500 mg/day of a whole ground product) for a mild
depression. The stinging pain developed spontaneously with a light touch, air
movement or exposure to cold and was particularly bad after sun exposure. The
pain gradually disappeared over a two-month period once she stopped taking the
St. John's Wort. Dr. Bove ascribes the development of the exaggerated pain
sensitivity to the St. John's Wort and cautions physicians to be aware of this
possibility in patients diagnosed with toxic neuropathy.