Alternative Health

Roseroot Herb May Effectively Treat Depression

Scientists have found that Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea), or roseroot, could be an effective treatment for major depression.

The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania enrolled in their study 57 people who had a “DSM IV Axis 1 Diagnosis” of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) – meaning that they had two or more major depressive episodes, depressed mood and/or loss of interest or pleasure in life activities for at least 2 weeks. Additional symptoms included significant unintentional weight loss or gain, insomnia or sleeping too much, fatigue, and diminished ability to think or concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death.

The participants received 12 weeks of standardized R. rosea extract, sertraline (a conventional antidepressant therapy), or placebo. Changes over time in Hamilton Depression Rating (HAM-D), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Clinical Global Impression (CGI) change scores were measured among groups, according to a news release from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, associate professor of Family Medicine, Community Health and Epidemiology and colleagues conducted the study, which was published in the journal Phytotherapy.

Patients who took sertraline were somewhat more likely – as measured by Ham-D scores – to report improvement in their symptoms by week 12 of treatment than those who took R. rosea. But investigators said these differences weren’t statistically significantly. Patients taking R. rosea had 1.4 times the odds of improvement, and patients on sertraline had 1.9 times the odds of improvement versus those on a placebo.

But patients on sertraline experienced twice the side effects – most commonly nausea and sexual dysfunction — than those on R. rosea: 63 percent versus 30 percent, respectively. That difference indicates that R. rosea may possess a more favorable risk to benefit ratio for individuals with mild to moderate major depressive disorder.

“These results are a bit preliminary but suggest that herbal therapy may have the potential to help patients with depression who cannot tolerate conventional antidepressants due to side effects,” Mao said. “Larger studies will be needed to fully evaluate the benefit and harm of R. rosea as compared to conventional antidepressants.”

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