Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen herb from the Crassulaceae family, which has been vastly used in the Russian and Chinese medicine. The herb is used against depression, anxiety, mental and physical fatigue and to promote overall health. In this systematic review, we examined the effects of R. rosea on depression, anxiety and mood, as these are the most relevant to mental health.
Literature searches were made in PubMed using the term ‘Rhodiola rosea’. Inclusion criteria were: Randomized controlled trials using interventions of R. rosea on any type of participants, while focusing on the effects of the intervention on depression, anxiety or mood. Mixed interventions of R. rosea with other herbs were excluded. Studies not published in English or Greek were excluded.
A total of 39 randomized controlled trials were identified and their abstract was screened. After screening, a total of 17 papers were excluded because they were focusing on irrelevant outcomes. The full text of the remaining 22 papers was read and an additional 17 papers were excluded. These papers were excluded because they were eventually not focusing on our main outcome or they were using R. rosea interventions with other herbs. In the end, a total of 5 papers (n = 327 participants) were found eligible for our systematic review. In these studies, R. rosea seems to improve the symptoms of mild to moderate depression, symptoms of mild anxiety and to enhance mood. The last date of our search was October 13, 2019.
Rhodiola rosea supplementation may alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression and mild anxiety, while it may also enhance mood. The findings of our review are not definite due to the lack of available experimental data. Randomized controlled trials with a low risk of bias are needed to further study the herb.