Stress-Related Depression Meets its Match – Rhodiola

Good Health LifestylesResearch Roundup

The Study: Rhodiola rosea L. as a putative botanical antidepressant.

BACKGROUND: Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea) is a botanical adaptogen with putative anti-stress and antidepressant properties. Evidence-based data supporting the effectiveness of R. rosea for depression in adults is limited, and therefore a comprehensive review of available animal and human studies suggesting a putative antidepressant action is warranted.

PURPOSE: A review of the literature was undertaken to ascertain studies of possible antidepressant mechanisms of action and studies of the safety and effectiveness of R. rosea extracts in animals and adult humans.

METHODS: A search of MEDLINE and the Russian state library database was conducted (up to October 2015) on R. rosea.

RESULTS: MECHANISM OF ACTION: R. rosea extracts and its purified constituent, salidroside, has been shown to produce a variety of mediator interactions with several molecular networks of neuroendocrine-immune and neurotransmitter receptor systems likely to be involved in the pathophysiology of depression. A wide variety of preclinical in vivo and ex vivo studies with laboratory animals suggests the presence of several biochemical and pharmacological antidepressant-like actions.

EFFECTIVENESS: Clinical assessment of R. rosea L. rhizome extracts in humans with various depressive syndromes is based upon results from two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of 146 subjects with major depressive disorder and seven open-label studies totaling 714 individuals with stress-induced mild depression (diagnosed as asthenic syndrome or psychoneurosis). Overall, results of these studies suggests a possible antidepressant action for R. rosea extract in adult humans.

SAFETY: In contrast to most conventional antidepressants, R. rosea extract appears to be well-tolerated in short-term studies with a favorable safety profile.

CONCLUSIONS: R. rosea demonstrates multi-target effects on various levels of the regulation of cell response to stress, affecting various components of the neuroendocrine, neurotransmitter receptor and molecular networks associated with possible beneficial effects on mood.

Source: Amsterdam JD, Panossian AG. Phytomedicine. 2016 Jun 15;23(7):770-83.


Rhodiola is well-known as an adaptogen for reducing stress, boosting energy levels, and enhancing physical performance, but this study shows that it may also be an herbal powerhouse for milder forms of depression as well. Rhodiola regulates hormonal and neural responses to stress that could otherwise lead to cyclical negative mood and possibly persistent depressive disorder, formerly known as dysthymic disorder.

This long-term condition has less severe symptoms than depression, but with low energy and low mood as an almost constant state for at least two years. As an adaptogen—a botanical known for helping bring physical and mental states into healthy balance—it is not surprising that rhodiola would show promise in this area.

While additional clinical work is necessary and diagnosis by a medical professional is imperative, rhodiola standardized for salidroside, one of its active compounds, could help return people to a happier life without side effects.


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