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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2001 Feb;45(2):517-24.

Pharmacokinetics, safety, and antiviral effects of hypericin, a derivative of St. John's wort plant, in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection.

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Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Hypericin is a natural derivative of the common St. Johns wort plant, Hypericum perforatum. It has in vitro activity against several viruses, including bovine diarrhea virus, a pestivirus with structural similarities to hepatitis C virus (HCV). We conducted a phase I dose escalation study to determine the safety and antiviral activity of hypericin in patients with chronic HCV infection. The first 12 patients received an 8-week course of 0.05 mg of hypericin per kg of body weight orally once a day; 7 patients received an 8-week course of 0.10 mg/kg orally once a day. At the end of the 8-week period of treatment, no subject had a change of plasma HCV RNA level of more than 1.0 log(10). Five of 12 subjects receiving the 0.05-mg/kg/day dosing schedule and 6 of 7 subjects receiving the 0.10-mg/kg/day dosing schedule developed phototoxic reactions. No other serious adverse events associated with hypericin use occurred. The pharmacokinetic data revealed a long elimination half-life (mean values of 36.1 and 33.8 h, respectively, for the doses of 0.05 and 0.1 mg/kg) and mean area under the curve determinations of 1.5 and 3.1 microg/ml x hr, respectively. In sum, hypericin given orally in doses of 0.05 and 0.10 mg/kg/d caused considerable phototoxicity and had no detectable anti-HCV activity in patients with chronic HCV infection.

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