Burnt out? Rhodiola rosea supplements may help, says new study

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Daily supplements containing Rhodiola rosea extract may improve the symptoms of burnout, suggests data from the first trial to examine the effects of the botanical extract on this modern day condition.

Results of the open-label, multicenter, single-arm trial provide “an encouraging basis” for future clinical trials to study if R. rosea extract can indeed help people suffering from burnout, which is reported to be an increasing burden to people and economies in the Western world.

“Most of the outcome variables assessed in this trial demonstrated relevant improvement over time with considerable changes already being detectable after the first week of R. rosea administration,” wrote Siegfried Kasper from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria and Angelika Dienel from Dr Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. in Germany in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

Despite being the first to specifically examine the effects of R. rosea in burnout, the results are in-line with previously reported benefits of the root extract, which is primary used for stress, mental and physical fatigue, depression, and to boost energy.

Study details

For the new study, Kasper and Dienel recruited 118 men and women aged between 30 and 60 suffering from symptoms of burnout. The participants were asked to consume 400 mg per day of a R. rosea extract (WS 1375, Rosalin, which is the active ingredient in Dr Willmar Schwabe’s Vitango product) for 12 weeks.

The majority of symptoms improved during the course of the study, with some improvements measurable as early as the first week, said the researchers.  

Specifically, improvements in symptoms such as “emotional exhaustion”, “fatigue”, “exhaustion”, “lack of joy”, “loss of zest for life”, and “depersonalization” were all recorded during the study.

In addition, the participants reported increased sexual interest and functioning, which supports the potential activity of R. rosea to ameliorate burnout’s impairment on sexual function.

“An important first step”

R. rosea is a high altitude and arctic regions plant native to Europe, North America, and Asia. According to the American Botanical Council, “Scientists have identified about 140 chemical compounds in the roots of rhodiola, including phenols, rosavin, rosin, rosarin, organic acids, terpenoids, phenolcarbonic acids and derivatives thereof, and flavonoids.”

Rhodiola is in the top 40 for herbal dietary supplements sales in both mass and natural channels, according to a report in HerbalGram 111. Combined sales totaled almost $13 million in 2015.

“Despite the observed quick and distinct improvement of most of the outcome parameters during the first week of intervention, which might at first glance not seem to be in accordance with what is known about the usually rather slow process of burnout therapy, it is still in line with what is known about the gradual development of burnout,” wrote Kasper and Dienel.

“In this context, the outcomes of the [Perceived Stress Questionnaire] and [Numerical Analogue Scales of subjective stress symptoms] assessment suggest that the reduction of core values such as exhaustion, fatigue, and subjective stress perception during the treatment with R. rosea extract might be an important first step toward a continuous alleviation of burnout symptoms, thus inhibiting the exacerbation of the syndrome and preventing the development of subsequent disorders such as depression or physical illness.”

Importantly, compliance during the study was high with very few adverse events reported, which supports the safety profile of R. rosea in this population.

“The results presented provide an encouraging basis for clinical trials further investigating the clinical outcomes of R. rosea extract in patients with the burnout syndrome,” concluded Kasper and Dienel.

Source: Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
2017, Volume 13, Pages 889–898, doi:  10.2147/NDT.S120113
“Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms”
Authors: S. Kasper and A. Dienel

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