St John's wort is popularly taken as a herbal remedy, but it interacts with prescribed drugs. The aim of this survey was to estimate the prevalence of patients self-medicating with St John's wort. All new referrals to a community mental health team over 5 months were asked about any use of St John's wort.
Fifteen patients, of 101, had taken St John's wort at some time and of those seven were currently taking it. Patients who used St John's wort tended to be younger and female. Only nine of the 15 patients took it for depressive symptoms and none had received medical advice. One patient was taking an interacting medication.
A significant number of patients are taking St John's wort. In order to prevent drug interactions, doctors should ask all patients whether they use it, especially young women who may be on the contraceptive pill. Patients need better education about its risks and benefits and it should be taken with medical advice.
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