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Originally published February 6 2008

Rhodiola Herbal Extract Found to Fight Off Depression

by Michael Jolliffe

(NaturalNews) A new clinical trial has found that an extract of the herb Rhodiola could be a useful treatment for cases of mild to moderate depression.

The study, published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, involved 80 participants, aged between 18 and 70, who were divided into three groups. The first received 340mg of Rhodiola extract daily, the second twice as much, and the third two capsules containing a placebo.

The results revealed that only the groups taking Rhodiola had found benefit, with particularly significant improvements in insomnia and emotional instability, and no adverse effects.

Rhodiola is thought to work against depression in two ways. Firstly, researchers believe the herb blocks the enzyme monoamine oxidase in a manner similar to the early drug anti-depressants such as amitriptyline, which helps the brain to retain levels of 'feel good' neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Rhodiola is also believed to calm a part of the brain known as the HPA axis, which connects the brain to the adrenal glands. High levels of adrenal stress hormones have consistently been found in individuals suffering from depression, but Rhodiola may address this imbalance and help to restore normal levels.

The plant has a long history of traditional usage associated with improving strength, motivation and resistance to stress and fatigue. Early records suggest that civilisations as old as the Vikings have prized and cultivated Rhodiola. It was equally prized by Soviet researchers during the Cold War, who
successfully tested its application with both athletes and astronauts.

Experts have commented on the promise that this latest research holds for the treatment of depression. Dr. Richard Brown, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and one of the world's leading experts on Rhodiola, called for additional
studies 'to explore and establish the potential applications of the herb', but stated his belief that both sufferers and researchers should be 'encouraged' by the results.

About the author

Michael Jolliffe is a freelance writer based in Oxford, UK.

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