Quick Study

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


St. John's wort may not affect symptoms.

THE QUESTION Parents of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder sometimes seek alternative treatments if medication doesn't adequately relieve symptoms or causes unwanted side effects. Might one common choice, St. John's wort, provide relief?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 54 youths, 6 to 17 years old, with ADHD to take St. John's wort (hypericum 0.3 percent, 300 milligrams) or a placebo three times a day. No other ADHD medications were allowed. After eight weeks, both groups had recorded, on average, about a three-point improvement (on a 54-point standardized scale) in inattentiveness and hyperactivity. Side effects such as nausea and headaches also occurred at essentially the same rate among those who did and did not take the herb.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Young people with ADHD. About 2 million children in the United States have the disorder, which often is treated with stimulants, to decrease hyperactivity and impulsive behavior and to increase attention, as well as with behavioral therapy.

CAVEATS Different preparations of St. John's wort may not yield the same results. Children and parents were paid up to $75 each for participating in the study. The herbal preparation used in the study was provided by Vital Nutrients Inc., its maker.

FIND THIS STUDY June 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ADHD at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health. Learn about St. John's wort at http://www.nccam.nih.gov.


Pre-exposure use of corticosteroids may help.

THE QUESTION Might corticosteroid creams reduce the effect of overexposure to the sun?

THIS STUDY involved 20 adults who had their backs exposed to ultraviolet rays from a sunlamp. A corticosteroid cream was applied to certain areas of their skin 30 minutes before exposure to the UV rays and to other areas either six hours or 23 hours after exposure; one area of skin was left untreated. No difference in redness was detected between the areas where the cream was applied after sunlamp exposure and the untreated area. However, skin that was treated before being exposed to the UV rays was less red than skin treated after exposure or not treated.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Anyone who spends time in the sun. Burning occurs when exposure to the sun's rays surpasses the ability of the skin pigment melanin to protect the skin from damage. Sunburn symptoms -- redness and soreness -- typically appear six to 48 hours after exposure.

CAVEATS In everyday use, people generally apply corticosteroid creams after, not before, sun exposure. The study involved a small number of people and did not compare corticosteroid use with other treatments.

FIND THIS STUDY May issue of Archives of Dermatology.

LEARN MORE ABOUT the effects of sun exposure at http://www.epa.gov/sunwise (search for "health effects") and http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health (search for "sunburn").

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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