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Testing the Mettle of St. John's Wort

Study to examine effectiveness of herbal supplement in treating minor depression

THURSDAY, March 27, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A four-year study to examine the safety and effectiveness of the herbal supplement St. John's wort and the antidepressant citalopram in treating minor depression has been launched by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The study, which will cost more than $4 million, is being conducted at three sites in Boston, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, and will include 300 people with minor depression.

Study participants will be randomly assigned to take St. John's wort, citalopram or a placebo in a 12-week, double-blind trial. Researchers will assess changes in the participants' symptoms, functioning and quality of life.

Minor depression is a common disorder that's underdiagnosed and undertreated. It can affect a person's daily functioning and quality of life and is a serious risk factor for major depression.

Symptoms of minor depression are the same as major depression, but the symptoms are fewer in number and cause less impairment. The symptoms include either a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, or a marked decline of interest or pleasure in daily activities.

Symptoms also include two to four of the following: significant weight loss or gain or a decrease or increase in appetite; sleep pattern disturbance; noticeable agitation or slowness; fatigue or loss of energy; inappropriate feelings of worthlessness or guilt; diminished ability to concentrate; indecisiveness; and recurrent thoughts of suicide or death.

The symptoms must last at least six months but less than two years continuously.

Here are more details on the study.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about depression.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, March 2003
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