Rhodiola Rosea and Depression

also known as Artic root, golden root, rose wort and roseroot

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Although rhodiola rosea is considered a promising treatment for mild to moderate depression as well as anxiety, there is nevertheless relatively little clinical data to prove its efficacy. Rhodiola has been extensively studied since the 1940s, but most studies were conducted in the former Soviet Union and thus remain untranslated.

However, the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized phase III clinical trial published in 2007 in the Nordic Journal of Psychology entitled "A. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression" reported that a standardized proprietary extract of rhodiola rosea "possesses a clear and significant anti-depressive activity in patients suffering from mild to moderate depression." In this study, 89 volunteers aged 18-70, all diagnosed with mild to moderate depression (based on both the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)), were divided into three separate groups. The first group received two 170 mg tablets of rhodiola rosea extract once a day, the second received the same number of tablets twice a day, and the third received two placebo tablets once a day. rhodiola depression imageAt the end of the trial all participants were again assessed using the same HAMD and BDI scale. All groups except the placebo group exhibited reduced HAMD and BDI scores: in the higher dose group, HAMD scores decreased from an average of 23.79 to 16.72, while BDI scores dropped from 10.38 to 4.75; in the lower dose group, HAMD scores decreased from an average of 24.52 to 15.97, while BDI scores dropped from 12.23 to 7.09. Moreover, in contrast to pharmaceutical antidepressants as well as some herbal preparations such as St. John's wort (which has been known to increase photosensitivity and interact with other medications), participants in the study reported no major side effects of rhodiola rosea. Finally, when asked specifically about depression-related symptoms, such as insomnia, mood swings, and fatigue, participants in both groups reported improvement in these areas.

Research so far seems to indicate that rhodiola rosea can have a profound effect on alleviating depression and anxiety. What is less clear is how exactly rhodiola rosea works in treating these conditions. One theory is that rhodiola works because it is a mild stimulant, providing the benefits of substances such as caffeine (improving mental performance, reducing fatigue) without its side effects (irritability, insomnia, nervousness). However, research indicates that there are other more complex interactions occurring. A recent Bulgarian study concluded that rhodiola rosea's effects can be partially attributed to its ability to stimulate the production of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which contribute to feelings of overall happiness and well-being. Rhodiola also appears to both lower and regulate the body's production of cortisol, a critical "stress hormone," which while in lower doses is crucial to the body's effective response to infection, trauma, and anxiety, can at higher doses depress the immune response. By lowering cortisol production, therefore, rhodiola rosea can have a balancing effect and keep stress to a minimum.

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