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An herb used in traditional European folk medicine for over 3,000 years could be a potential treatment option for depression, according to the results of a new study.
Many common therapies for mild to moderate depression can have side effects such as nausea and sexual dysfunction.
The study, published in Phytomedicine, was led by Dr. Jun J. Mao, an associate professor of family medicine, community health and epidemiology at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania.
Rhodiola rosea, also referred to as roseroot, has been used in traditional folk medicine to promote work endurance, increase longevity and promote resistance to several health conditions including fatigue, altitude sickness and depression.
Previous studies have suggested that roseroot could enhance mood by stimulating the receptors of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain that are involved with mood regulation. Other research also suggests the herb affects beta-endorphin levels in the body.
In comparison with participants receiving a placebo, patients taking roseroot had 1.4 times the odds of improvement, whereas patients taking sertraline had 1.9 times the odds.
However, far more patients receiving sertraline (63%) reported side effects than those receiving roseroot (30%). This finding suggests that roseroot may have a more favorable risk to benefit ratio than sertraline for treating mild to moderate depression.