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Hyperforin may be the main antidepressant constituent of St. John's wort

Recent research has suggested that hypericum extract, like synthetic antidepressants, exerts its effect by dose-dependently inhibiting uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Determination of the active constituent of hypericum has held researchers' interest for some time. This study tested hyperforin, the major component of the oily extract and a component of the hydroalcoholic extract as well. Methanolic hypericum extract was shown to effectively and nonspecifically inhibit uptake of the three neurotransmitters mentioned above, and hyperforin likely is responsible for the observed result. Unlike any other anti-depressant drug, hyperforin inhibits all three uptake systems similarly. Hypericin and kaempferol, a flavonoid present in hypericum extract, failed to show any such activity, leading to the conclusion that hyperforin is the main anti-depressant compound. However, other mechanisms discussed briefly in this paper may also play roles in this activity.

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Müller W, Singer A, Wonnemann M et al. Hyperforin represents the neurotransmitter reuptake inhibiting constituent of hypericum extract. Pharmacopsychiat 1998; 31: 16-21.

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