St. John's wort is widely used as an herbal remedy for depression. Although its mechanism of action remains unknown, some evidence suggests that St. John's wort might act via brain serotonin (e.g., as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor). To determine whether St. John's wort affects the central serotonergic system, we monitored the discharge rate of serotonin-containing neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus of awake cats following systemic administration of two clinical preparations of St. John's wort, Jarsin® 300 (15-600 mg/kg, p.o.) and Hyperforat® (0.5-4.0 ml, i.v.). Both preparations were found to have no effect on neuronal activity. This contrasts sharply with the action of fluoxetine and sertraline (2 mg/kg, p.o.), two selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which markedly depressed neuronal activity by increasing the synaptic availability of serotonin at inhibitory somatodendritic 5-HT1A autoreceptors. The failure of St. John's wort to depress neuronal activity cannot be attributed to an impairment of the 5-HT1A autoreceptor mechanism, since pretreatment with Jarsin® 300 (300 mg/kg, p.o.) did not alter the responsiveness of serotonergic neurons to the 5-HT1A agonist 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) (10 μg/kg, i.v.). Overall, these findings indicate that the mode of action of St. John's wort is different from that of conventional antidepressant drugs, which elevate brain serotonin and evoke negative feedback control of serotonergic neurons.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin)
- Dorsal raphe nucleus
- Hypericum perforatum
- LI 160
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors