Roseroot Studied As Alternative Depression Medicine


Roseroot, or rhodiola rosea, is a promising alternative treatment for major depressive disorder.

Roseroot is a flowering perennial plant that grows well in colder climates including the Arctic, the mountains in Central Asia and Europe and areas of eastern North America.

The name roseroot comes from the rose-like scent of the plant’s root after it is split or crushed.

In a study done through the University of Pennsylvania, roseroot significantly reduced depressive symptoms – nearly as well as an established antidepressant medication, but with fewer side effects.

Roseroot vs. Sertraline (Zoloft)

Although the research is preliminary, it may lead to good news for the many who do not respond well to current antidepressant medications. Depression affects nearly 19 million Americans every year and more than two-thirds of sufferers do not find adequate relief with initial standard therapies.

The study on roseroot was a randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled comparison, pitting roseroot extract against sertraline (Zoloft) for mild to moderate depressive symptoms.

Between December 2010 and April 2013, 57 adults participated in the study. Each had a diagnosis of MDD according to the DSM IV, a psychiatric diagnosis manual. Participants were given 12 weeks of either standardized roseroot extract, sertraline, or a placebo.

Changes in their mood and other symptoms were measured using standard depression inventories: the Hamilton Depression Rating, Beck Depression Inventory and Clinical Global Impression.

About the Same

Sertraline and roseroot performed about the same. Although the participants on sertraline faired a bit better than those on roseroot – according to the Hamilton ratings – the differences are not statistically significant:

  • People taking the roseroot had 1.4 times the odds of improvement compared to the placebo group.
  • People taking the sertraline had 1.9 times the odds of improvement compared to the placebo group.
  • Those taking the sertraline had two times more side effects (e.g., nausea, sexual dysfunction) than those taking roseroot – 63 percent on sertraline reported side effects compared to 30 percent on roseroot.

“Larger studies will be needed to fully evaluate the benefit and harm of R. rosea [roseroot] as compared to conventional antidepressants,” said researcher Jun J. Mao, M.D., MSCE.

Sources: Penn Medicine; Nature Gate
Photo credit: Erik-Jan Vens / flickr creative commons


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