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Synthetic St John's Wort

21 August, 2000

Earlier this year the Department of Health issued a warning about the use of St Johns Wort, in patients with certain conditions - epilepsy included.

New studies are investigating whether it will be possible to develop a synthetic version of the herb, so that it does not interact with other medication. Scientists at Cambridge have discovered that the key ingredient in St Johns Wort is Hyperforin, which stimulates the production of a liver enzyme called CYP3A. This affects the speed that some drugs are broken down by the liver. The Cambridge teams findings match another study carried out by Glaxo Wellcome, the pharmaceutical company.

The two teams are now working together to develop a synthetic version of St Johns Wort. In a report in New Scientist magazine, the teams hope to create a drug that will still have the anti-depressant properties but will not affect other medications.