Inhibitory effect of the herbal antidepressant St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) on rat gastric motility

Raffaele Capasso, Francesca Borrelli, Gabriella Aviello, Francesco Capasso, Angelo A Izzo

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16 Citations (Scopus)


St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a highly popular and effective herbal antidepressant that clinically interacts with a number of conventional drugs. Because alterations in gastric emptying can cause pharmacokinetic interactions, in the present study we evaluated the effect of a standardized extract prepared from the flowering tops of Hypericum perforatum (SJW extract) on rat gastric motility. Orally administered SJW extract delayed gastric emptying in vivo. In vitro studies showed that SJW extract was significantly more active in inhibiting acetylcholine (or prostaglandin E2)-induced contractions than electrical field stimulation (EFS)-induced contractions. The effect of SJW extract on EFS-induced contractions was unaffected by drugs that inhibit intrinsic inhibitory nerves or by tachykinin antagonists, but it was reduced by the 5-hydroxytryptamine antagonist methysergide. The inhibitory effect of SJW extract on acetylcholine-induced contractions was reduced by the sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor cyclopiazonic acid, but not by the L-type Ca2+ channel blocker nifedipine or by methysergide. Among the chemical constituents of SJW extract tested, hyperforin and, to a lesser extent, the flavonoids kaempferol and quercitrin, inhibited acetylcholine-induced contractions. It is concluded that SJW has a direct inhibitory effect on smooth muscle and could also possibly modulate gastric neurotransmission. If extended to humans, the inhibitory effect of SJW extract on gastric emptying in vivo could contribute, at least in part, to the clinical pharmacokinetic interactions between conventional medicines and this herbal antidepressant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-414
Number of pages8
JournalNaunyn-Schmiedeberg's Archives of Pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by PRIN, Regione Campania, and “Fondazione Enrico ed Enrica Sovena”.


  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flowering Tops
  • Gastric Emptying
  • Hypericum
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth
  • Plant Extracts
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stomach
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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