by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Updated January, 2022
A man wrote:
I read an article on Dr. Jeffrey Dach’s website referring to the natural mood improving qualities of St. John’s Wort [“Beating Depression Naturally“], which also should have little or no side-effects when taking the recommended daily dosage (anywhere from 300mg-900mg).
I have been feeling “down” for the last year and a half, and thought I’d give it a try (mostly due to my hearing loss and adjusting to the new me). I also suffer from severe tinnitus and recruitment.
My question is this: “Is St. John’s Wort a non-ototoxic drug/herb? Is it safe to take?” I want to improve my mood, and would prefer to find a natural method; but don’t want to make my hearing loss any worse.
St. John’s Wort is very mildly ototoxic. It has far fewer side effects than prescription drugs. Furthermore, it is not reported to cause hearing loss, and only a handful of people have reported getting tinnitus from taking it.
Over 40 studies (so far) have reported it to be just as effective for mild to moderate depression as the drugs doctors typically prescribe. St. John’s Wort really works. D_______ takes it as needed and has never had any ototoxic (or other) side effects like she had with prescription drugs. I know a number of others that have had the same experience.
Consequently, you can take it for as long as you need to without being unduly concerned that it will cause hearing loss, aggravate your tinnitus, make your hyperacusis worse or wreck your balance.
However you still have to be prudent because you may be particularly sensitive to St. John’s Wort. For example, one man wrote,
The St. John’s Wort I’m taking has made my tinnitus incredibly worse. I’ve been taking it for almost 2 weeks and my tinnitus is now unbearable. I’ve been taking 2,000 mg each morning and I’m wondering if I should lower my dosage or drop it all together.
This man is taking a very high dose once a day rather than breaking it up and taking it morning, noon and night. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d find his tinnitus going away if he dropped the dose to 300 to 600 mg a day which is in the recommended range.
I’ve suggested to a good number of people that they ask their doctors to switch them to St. John’s Wort rather than the ototoxic prescription drugs they originally took in order to prevent further ototoxic damage to their ears.
You can get St. John’s Wort at almost any drug store or health food store, or on the Internet. Just be sure that the packaging explicitly states that the active ingredient—hypericin—is standardized to a given level somewhere between 0.3% and 0.7%—typically 0.3%. This is very important. Some formulations don’t mention this at all. As a result, you don’t know whether you are even getting any of the active ingredient or not.
However, don’t just start taking St. John’s Wort on your own if you are taking any other medications. You don’t want to cause problems due to interactions between St. John’s Wort and any other medications you might be taking. For example, St. John’s Wort can speed up the breakdown of many drugs and thereby reduce these drugs’ effectiveness This can happen if you are taking antidepressants or birth control pills–and you don’t want an “oops” to occur) .
Also, note that taking St. John’s Wort can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. If this occurs, you know that St. John’s Wort is not for you. However, the vast majority of people taking St. John’s Wort don’t have any side effects.
To learn which drugs and herbs are (or can be) ototoxic, see “Ototoxic Drugs Exposed“. This book contains information on the ototoxicity of 877 drugs, 35 herbs and 148 chemicals.