Toxicity ofHypericum perforatum(St. John's wort) administered during pregnancy and lactation in rats

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The popularity of St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) for the treatment of depression is increasing and, in recent years, concerns about its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding have emerged.The purpose of this study was to investigate, in Wistar rats, the effects of a treatment with hypericum administered prenatally and during breastfeeding (from 2 weeks before mating to 21 days after delivery). Two doses of the extract were chosen, 100 mg/kg per day, which, based on surface area, is comparable to the dose administered to humans, and 1000 mg/kg per day.A microscopical analysis of livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs, brains, and small bowels was performed. A severe damage was observed in the livers and kidneys of animals euthanized postnatally on days 0 and 21. The lesions were more severe with the higher dose and in animals that were breastfed for 21 days; however, an important renal and hepatic damage was evident also with the dose of 100 mg/kg per day. In addition, similar serious hepatic and renal lesions were evident also in animals that were exposed to hypericum only during breastfeeding. In particular, a focal hepatic damage, with vacuolization, lobular fibrosis, and disorganization of hepatic arrays was evident; in the kidney, a reduction in glomerular size, disappearance of Bowman's space, and hyaline tubular degeneration were found.The results obtained in this study indicate that further, appropriate histological studies should be performed in other animal species to better evaluate the safety of hypericum extracts taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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