Guide to Herbal Medicine

The following information about commonly used herbs in the treatment of anxiety related disorders has been developed in association with Schwabe whom have kindly sponsored this page.

St John’s Wort

St Johns Wort

St John”s Wort (Hypericum perforatum L) has been used as a remedy for nerve disorders for more than 2000 years.  This bushy perennial plant, which has bright yellow flowers, grows wild in many parts of the world including Europe, Asia and the USA.  The petals and leaves of the plant contain a number of unique substances such as hypericin and hyperforin. The herb is a popular herbal medicine for the treatment of low mood, with at least 30 studies on more than 1,700 patients showing that St John”s Wort can be an effective remedy for mild- to-moderate depression without the side effects of more conventional anti-depressants.

While it is not clear exactly how St John”s Wort works, it is thought that is helps to prolong the action of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, which when deficient can result in low mood.  It also often used for symptoms associated with sleep problems, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and PMS.

300mg (900mcg hypericin) to 900mg of St. John’s Wort can be taken daily. One-a-day formulations are available.
When taking St. John’s Wort it is important to be aware of any interactions with medication you are currently taking.

When considering taking St. John’s Wort you should be aware of the following:

  • If you are taking prescribed medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking St John’s wort. It can interfere with how some prescribed medicines work.
  • Do not take with other anti-depressant drugs.
  • Do not take with the following: warfarin, cyclosporine, oral contraceptives, anti-convulsants, digoxin, theophylline, HIV protease inhibitors, triptans and SSRI anti-depressants.
  • Do not take during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the sun especially if fair-skinned while taking St John”s wort.

To find out more about St. Johns Wort visit
St John’s Wort can be found in Karma – a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety based on traditional use only.



Valerian is found growing in North America and Europe and is recognisable from its pinkish flowers that grow from a tuberous rhizome and its distinctive rather unpleasant smell. Throughout history, Valerian has been used medically to treat nervous anxiety, reduce muscle tension and relieve mild insomnia.

Valerian is now widely cultivated for medical use as it contains several unique substances, such as valerenic acid and valeranon that have a relaxant action that is particularly effective in treating stress and anxiety.

Valerian is also widely used for sleep problems, particularly sleep disturbances due to anxiety. Valerian helps to calm the brain and body rather than inducing sleep directly, allowing sleep to occur naturally.  It is often combined with other herbs such as lemon balm and hops, both of which are well known for their calming properties.

Before taking Valerian, you need to be aware of the following:

  • Valerian enhances the action of sleep-enhancing drugs so should not be taken at the same time as sleeping pills or tranquillisers, although it can be combined with other herbs such as camomile, melissa or passionflower.
  • Do not take if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Valerian should not be taken before driving or any other situation where you need to be alert.
  • Valerian is not suitable for children


Passion flower

Passionflower is a climbing shrub with large flowers with white petals surrounded by a crown of pink or violet filaments and large stamens that is native to South America, but is widely cultivated throughout Europe. Passionflower has long been valued by herbal practitioners for its calming and sedative actions and it has been used over the years for anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. It contains alkaloids, glycosides and steroids and it is thought that the alkaloid (once known as passiflorine) is the main active ingredient. Today, Passionflower is widely used for anxiety and nervous tension, and is often combined with valerian and/or hops.

For further information about Passionflower visit

Before taking Passionflower you need to be aware of the following:

  • Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by contributors to this page are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor does Anxiety UK guarantee the accuracy of the information reported on this page. You must not rely on the information contained on this page as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this page. Any medical information is not advice and should not be treated as such.