Q. Our family is going on a two-week vacation to the beach. I read in your column that there is a problem with St. John’s wort and the sun. I am reluctant to stop taking this herb because it has dramatically improved my outlook. My kids don’t irritate me the way they used to and it doesn’t interfere with my sex life the way Prozac did. Will a high SPF sunscreen be enough to protect me from burning?
A. We cannot guarantee that even a powerful sunscreen will protect you from the phototoxic effects of St. John’s wort. Hypericin, one of the ingredients in this herb, reacts to light and can damage nerves and skin. Even more alarming, hypericin may damage the lens and retina of the eye when exposed to ultraviolet and visible light.
Because sunglasses encourage the pupils to dilate, they could actually do more harm than good. More light could get to the retina where it might cause damage. In our opinion, people taking St. John’s wort should play it safe and stay out of the sun.