Extract of the common plant Hypericum perforatum L. (St John's Wort, SJW) has been used successfully for the treatment of mild to moderate depression since ancient times and has recently been studied clinically. Depression and alcoholism have some neurochemical similarities, such as low brain serotonin activities. Thus, we hypothesized that SJW extract, which contains 0.22% hypericin and 4.05% hyperforin, also may be effective in suppressing alcohol intake. To test this hypothesis, the effects of SJW extract on voluntary alcohol intake were studied in two different genetic animal models of human alcoholism: fawn-hooded (FH) and high-alcohol drinking (HAD) rats. FH and HAD rats received a single oral administration (5 ml/kg) of either vehicle or one of the five doses (100, 200, 400, 600, and 800 mg/kg) of SJW extract. The oral administration of SJW extract significantly (P < 0.0001) reduced alcohol intake in both FH and HAD rats. In a third study, FH rats did not develop tolerance to the suppressant effects of SJW on alcohol intake and preference following oral administration of (400 mg/kg) of the extract for 15 consecutive days. These promising findings suggest that SJW extract should be evaluated clinically as a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of alcoholism.