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Roseroot herb a potential alternative treatment for depression

Roseroot possible alternative treatment for depression

Roseroot, an herb that has been used in traditional folk medicine, could have potential as an alternative treatment for depression, according to a new study.


The study was the first ever randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled comparison trial of roseroot extract and consisted of 57 adults who exhibited two or more major depressive episodes, depressed moods, or loss of interest in activities for at least two weeks. The participants also exhibited unintentional weight change, thoughts of death, and fatigue.

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, researchers compared the effects of roseroot on mild to moderate major depressive disorder with sertraline, a commonly prescribed antidepressant. Over a period of 12 weeks, the participants were given either roseroot extract, sertraline or a placebo.

The participants who received sertraline were more likely than participants who received roseroot extract to report improvements in their symptoms by week 12, but the differences were not statistically significant. Participants who took sertraline had 1.9 times the odds of improvement, while participants who took roseroot extract had 1.4 times the odds of improvement.

Sixty-three percent of participants receiving sertraline reported side effects, compared to 30 percent of participants receiving roseroot.

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“These results are a bit preliminary but suggest that herbal therapy may have the potential to help patients with depression who cannot tolerate conventional antidepressants due to side effects,” said Dr. Mao.

However, the researchers noted that the small sample size was a limitation of the study.

“This study was designed to generate preliminary efficacy and safety data to determine sample size estimates for a future, fully-powered study,” they said.

Despite the small sample size, the researchers concluded that roseroot extract resulted in “significantly fewer adverse events and was better tolerated” than sertraline. The researchers also concluded that, although roseroot was less effective than sertraline, it “may possess a more favorable risk to benefit ratio for individuals with mild to moderate depression.”

Roseroot is not the only possible alternative treatment for depression. A 2010 study found that Omega 3 fatty acids can help treat depression unaccompanied by anxiety.

[Photo credit: Opioła Jerzy / Wikimedia Commons]