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Rhodiola rosea for mild stress and anxiety in university students.

Cropley M, Banks AP, Boyle J. 2015. The effects of Rhodiola rosea L. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition and other mood symptoms. Phytother Res. In press. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.5486.

Anxiety, stress and fatigue are widespread in the Western world, with lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders estimated to be 16.6%. The rate is considerably higher for mild anxiety. Rhodiola rosea, of the Crassulaceae family, has been traditionally used to alleviate symptoms of everyday stressors including anxiety, stress, fatigue, and depression. Previous studies and research have demonstrated a beneficial pharmacological effect of R. rosea in humans, but research in the mild anxiety setting is limited. Accordingly, the primary aim of this study was to investigate the effect of R. rosea on self-reported mild anxiety and stress in a sample of university students.

The study was designed as an open-label, randomised, controlled trial with repeated measures. In total 81 students were randomised into one of two groups: treatment n= 40 or control n= 41. Students in the active intervention received a standardised dose of Rhodiola rosea extract (Vitano [R]) twice daily for 14 days whilst the control group went without any intervention. The Rhodiola rosea group were given 2 x 200mg of Vitano [R], 1 tablet before breakfast and 1 tablet before lunch for 14 days. The active ingredient of Vitano [R] is rosalin, a proprietary dry extract from. Inclusion criteria included being 18-35 years and healthy (on basis of medical history, vital signs and routine laboratory investigations), had mild anxiety based on a screening score above 30 on validated Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and were non-smokers. Being pregnant or breastfeeding, high caffeine consumption, history of drug/substance abuse, positive alcohol breath test at any test visit, colour blind, significant renal or liver abnormality on blood tests, and use of other medication that may potentially interact were some of the exclusion criteria.

Anxiety and stress were the primary outcome measures assessed using the self-reporting tools, STAI and a Perceived Stress Scale. Secondary outcomes measured included mood, daytime sleepiness, sleep, and cognition using validated self-reporting inventories, scales, questionnaires and computer-based tests. Measurements and reporting occurred at four time points: T1 = baseline, T2 = 4 hours later on the same day as baseline, T3 = 7 days, and T4 = 14 days.

After controlling for baseline ratings, treatment with R. rosea demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety at T4 (p <0.01) and a trend toward reduction at time T3 (p = 0.08), when compared to the control group. For perceived stress, treatment with R. rosea was significantly reduced at T4 (p < 0.01) and with trend towards stress reduction at T3 (p = 0.06). No significant differences were observed in anxiety and perceived stress at T2. For the secondary outcomes, the treatment group demonstrated significantly lower ratings of self-reported anger, confusion, and depression relative to the controls, and significant improvements in total mood. Sleep, daytime sleepiness, and performance in cognitive tests revealed no differences between the groups.

The findings of the study reveal promising results for Rhodiola rosea in the mild anxiety setting, but it is important to note this was a feasibility study and being open-label with the control group not receiving any intervention, i.e. no placebo, the ability to interpret the results is greatly limited. Furthermore, the study is further limited by the self-reporting nature of outcome measures. Future studies that address these limitations, as well as exploring use in other populations, and identification of optimal dosing and duration of treatment, will provide greater clarity in the use of R. rosea in management of mild anxiety and stress.
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Author:Tester, Jodie
Publication:Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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