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Root for Depression

Posted on Aug. 9, 2016, 6 a.m. in Depression Alternative Medicine Botanical Agents

Rhodiola rosea (roseroot) may have potential as a treatment option for major depressive disorder.

A common yet debilitating psychiatric condition, depression is a disorder for which many patients do not respond adequately to drug therapy. Jun J. Mao, from the University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, USA), and colleagues completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, comparison trial of oral Rhodiola rosea (roseroot) extract versus conventional antidepressant for mild to moderate major depressive disorder.  All of the study's 57 adult participants, were diagnosed with major depressive disorder as defined by the DSM IV.  Subjects received 12 weeks of standardized R. rosea extract, a prescription drug (sertraline), or placebo. The researchers monitored changes in depression symptoms over time via standardized assessment scales.  While the subjects taking the prescription drug were somewhat more likely to report improvement in their symptoms by week 12 of treatment (as compared to those taking R. rosea), the participants who took R. rosea had 1.4 times the odds of improvement without experiencing side effects (such as nausea and sexual dysfunction, experienced by the subjects taking the medication).  Observing that: “Although [Rhodiola] rosea produced less antidepressant effect versus [medication], it also resulted in significantly fewer adverse events and was better tolerated,” the study authors submit that: “[Rhodiola] rosea … may possess a more favorable risk to benefit ratio for individuals with mild to moderate depression.”

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Jun J. Mao, Sharon X. Xie, Jarcy Zee, Irene Soeller, Qing S. Li, Kenneth Rockwell, Jay D. Amsterdam. “Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial.”  Phytomedicine, Vol. 22 Issue 3, March 15, 2015, pages 394-399.

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