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ABC Press Release Clarifies St. John's Wort Confusion

ABC continues its media education efforts with press releases and letters to the editor. In April, ABC responded to a clinical trial1 regarding St. John’s wort (SJW) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association with a press release and several letters to the editors of publications that covered this study.

The study reported that a standardized SJW preparation was ineffective in treating patients with severe depression. ABC and others in the herbal community were concerned about the confusion generated by misleading headlines and inaccurate coverage of the significance of the new study. The ABC release included statements by Jerry Cott, Ph.D., former Chief of the Psychopharmacology Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, that this study does not invalidate the use of SJW in clinical depression.

Dr. Cott, a member of ABC’s Advisory Board and an expert on SJW clinical research, raised some questions about the design and implications of the study. ABC’s founder and executive director, Mark Blumenthal, stressed the fact that a significant number of previously published clinical trials document the safe and effective use of SJW to treat mild to moderate depression. ABC’s release and some of the points made by Cott and Blumenthal were picked up by the New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine (who referred to ABC’s “stinging press release”), and the CBS Evening News (in an interview with Hyla Cass, M.D., a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist experienced with the use of SJW in her clinical practice), among other media outlets.

As ever, ABC continues to help reporters who request information on herbs—from market statistics to information on traditional and contemporary uses of herbal medicines, and perspectives on research and regulation. The Media Education Campaign (MEC) is a program to fulfill ABC’s mission to provide quality herbal education. Meeting the demand for reliable herbal information, ABC supplies interviews, and updated phytomedicine research to the media. Further information on ABC’s MEC is available at , or by calling 512/926-4900, ext. 119.    Kim West, ABC

1.          Shelton RC, Keller MB, Gelenberg A, Dunner DL, Hirschfeld R, Thase ME, et al. Effectiveness of St. John’s Wort in Major Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2001;285(15):1978-86.