The adaptogenic herb Rhodiola helps depression

June 02, 2015

Jun J. Mao, MD, associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania tested the effects of Rhodiola rosea comparing it to the prescription antidepressant sertraline in 57 adults with major depressive disorder.

Of the 19 million Americans afflicted with depression each year, 70 percent of them do not fully respond to the initial drug therapy. Also antidepressants substantial side effects often cause a patient to discontinue treatment.

The participants received 12 weeks of Rhodiola rosea extract, sertraline, 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.

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 Rhodiola rosea, although these differences were not found to be statistically significant. 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. However, patients on sertraline experienced many side effects – most commonly nausea and sexual dysfunction. These findings suggest that Rhodila rosea may possess a more favorable risk to benefit ratio for individuals with mild to moderate major depressive disorder. The study is published in the March 2015 issue of the journal Phytomedicine