A threatened St. Johns wort plant could be more effective as an anti-depressant, Cornell and USDA researchers find

ver, not all St. John's wort products are the same. Previous studies have shown that the amount of hypericin in the plant - although usually labeled can vary from plant to plant, manufacturer to manufacturer, bottle to bottle and pill to pill. Thus Sirvent and Gibson are trying to determine how much of a role pre-harvest factors play in chemical differences. They are examining factors such as light, moisture, altitude and latitude; the plant parts; the plant's development stage; and the harvesting and handling practices that might affect the quality of the final product. Additionally, variations in St. John's wort products sometimes occur because manufacturers mix species of H. perforatum.

The plant typically is gathered as a weedy species in the western United States, but some is being grown commercially in the Pacific Northwest. It also is found along roadways and in fields in the eastern United States. Hypericin is concentrated in little black nodules nearly imperceptible to the untrained eye that adorn the floral edges and the plant's leaves. Curiously, St. John's wort is considered a noxious weed that can cause hypericism, or blistering and dyeing of an animal's skin when it is eaten. Its scraggly, almost frail-looking stem produces a brilliant yellow flower cluster and it grows readily in rock quarries and in marginal areas such as roadsides, where little else grows.


Contact: Blaine Friedlander
Cornell University News Service

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