ST. John's Wort relieves bladder pain in animal models

ATLANTA– St. John's Wort, an herbal supplement used for centuries, may be effective in relieving pain that occurs in hypersensitive bladder disorders such as interstitial cystitis (IC), according to animal model study results presented today at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.

Prior studies have found that neural control of the lower urinary tract is controlled by serotonin- and norepinephrine-emitting neurons, similar neurons to those that play a role in depression and anxiety. Researchers also have found that agonists and antagonists of serotonin and norepinephrine can be used to control urinary tract activity.

"St. John's Wort is an herbal supplement that has been used for years to treat symptoms of mild depression, while urologists often use antidepressants to treat interstitial cystitis," said Michael B. Chancellor, M.D., professor of urology and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Given that the supplement and the drug work on the same systems, it makes sense that St. John's Wort could help treat this painful disease."

For the study, the University of Pittsburgh researchers injected a formulation of St. John's Wort called DP015 into the abdomens of rats with bladder inflammation. As compared with controls, the models that were given DP015 showed an increased bladder contraction interval. Bladder hyperactivity, characterized by frequent contractions of the bladder, is a significant cause of irritation and pain in the bladder.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 700,000 Americans have IC; 90 percent are women. IC is one of the chronic pelvic pain disorders, defined by recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and surrounding pelvic region. Symptoms vary and can include any combination of mild to severe pain, pressure and tenderness in the bladder and pelvic area; and an urgent and/or frequent need to urinate. In IC, the bladder wall may become scarred or irritated, and pinpoint bleeding may appear on the bladder wall.


The DP015 used in this study was supplied by Delithe Natural Products and the study was funded by the Fishbein Family Foundation Center of Urologic Research Excellence – Interstitial Cystitis (CURE-IC) Project.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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