Saint Johnswort can cause extreme sun sensitivity


November 01, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

Q. I started taking Saint Johnswort a year ago to improve my mood. It helped a lot, but I also suffered amazingly intense and painful skin sensitivity, which increased in the spring and summer after working in the garden.

At first I thought I was reacting to a herbicide. Then I met someone who had a similar reaction to Saint Johnswort associated with sun exposure. I stopped taking the herb about a month ago and things have returned to normal. Are you familiar with this side effect?

A. With so many people taking Saint Johnswort, we are learning more than ever before about potential side effects, including bad sunburns.

A vet reminded us that Saint Johnswort is phototoxic to animals: "I teach a class in poisonous plants to veterinary students. Saint FTC Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) has been classed as a poisonous plant for hundreds of years. It causes severe photo-sensitization in grazing cattle on the white parts of their skin."

A recent report in the Lancet (Oct. 3, 1998) described a 35-year-old woman who developed painful neuropathy where she was exposed to the sun. As in your case, it took about a month after stopping the herb for the pain to disappear. This coincides with the time needed for nerves to recover.

Q. To avoid colds, sniff a weak solution of salt and baking soda in warm water twice a day. I've not had a single cold since following this advice from an ear, nose and throat doctor!

A. In a similar vein, a study recently showed that flushing nasal passages daily with warm salt water using a neti pot can reduce the number of colds. Neti pots are available by mail order from the Himalayan Institute: 800-822-4547.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

Pub Date: 11/01/98

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