Extracts of rhodiola root are used in depression, fatigue, tiredness and to increase physical and mental performance. A German research group recently demonstrated in a pilot study – by using quantitative brainwave measurements – that one-time intake of the SHR-5 extract significantly increases mental and emotional resilience.
The working group around Professor Wilfried Dimpfel from the Justus Liebig University in Gießen used a very special method for her investigations: the quantitative EEG (Neurocode Tracking) in combination with eye-point analysis. “With this method, we can represent the electrical activity of the brain, both quantitatively and cartographically, in the form of colored enkephaloglyphs,” explained Dimpfel on an event supported by Dr. Loges. This method makes it possible to detect cognitive as well as emotional performance losses or increases.
Using this method, the researchers studied the brain waves of 20 participants. These received either two capsules of SHR-5 200 mg (Swedish Herbal Rhodiola 5 mg salidroside, p-tyrosol and rosavin) extract (Rhodiolan® 200) or placebo.
Subsequently, the subjects had to solve three tasks under time pressure.
- The first task was a troubleshooting image.
- This was followed by a Stroop test, in which candidates have to decide within seconds whether, for example, the word “blue” is written in blue or in another.
- In the final part, the subjects were confronted with a memory test. They had to recognize individual number-letter sequences (previously seen) under a wider selection of similar number-letter sequences.
After one week the same subjects in cross-over design were again subjected to these tests. The results of the EEG showed that after a single administration of the SHR-5 extract, there is a significantly increased activity in certain cerebral areas assigned to cognitive function.
Effects visible after only one single dose
Furthermore, the subjects under the same study design had to undergo emotionally charged situations such as a horror trailer or the photo of a tarantula. The measurement showed that the frequencies were suppressed in certain brain areas and activated in others. For example, in some areas there was a higher activity of alpha waves, which dominate in a relaxed state. “Taking this Rhodiola rosea extract once is a positive influence on the emotional ability, because relaxing brain activity is stimulated and burdensome suppressed,” concluded Dimpfel.
Extract influences gene expression
“Two capsules of SHR-5 extract 200 mg daily for a period of one to three months, followed by a two-week washout period,” recommended Professor Dr. Alexander Panossian from the Swedish Herbal Institute, Vallberga. His group has recently provided a potential neuronal explanation for the findings from the brainwave measurements of German scientists. The Swedish researchers investigated gene expression in the human neuroglia T98G cell line after treatment with the SHR-5 extract as well as individual ingredients such as salidroside, triandrin and tyrosol. In total, they were able to account for 1062 genes whose expression is influenced by the total Rhodiola rosea extract. In salidroside it was 1052, in triandrin 1062 and in tyrosol 1057. The strongest effects were found in cardiovascular (72), metabolic (63), gastrointestinal (163), neurological (95), endocrine (60), behavioral physiological (50) and psychological (62) disorders.
Furthermore, the scientists investigated which signaling pathways were mostly affected in all 1062 Rhodiolia-deregulated genes. These included communication pathways between the acquired and innate immune responses, endothelial nitric oxide synthase signaling pathways, altered T-cell and B-cell responses in rheumatoid arthritis, signaling pathways of G-protein coupled, glutamate and ephrin receptors, or signal transduction in atherosclerosis. “The rose root extract has a multi-target effect on gene expression and consequently influences many signaling pathways,” summarized Panossian. Each ingredient has its individual pharmacological profile, which has similarities, but also differences to the total extract.
In addition, the scientists identified – in the context of the signal pathway studies – those genes that are associated with emotional behaviors. Out of 17 genes, nine showed an expression pattern indicating decreased emotional behavior. Five other genes showed patterns of expression suggesting reduced aggressive behaviors. Overall, the researchers see the effects of the extract as positive effects in order to better deal with stressful situations and mood swings.
“The thick-leafed plant Rhodiola rosea is one of the adaptogens” (Ashwagandha is another one), Andreas Biller, Managing Director of Loges, introduced the plant. This term was coined by the Russian scientist Dr. Nicolai Lazarev already in 1958. The doctor described them as plants whose ingredients increase the resistance of the body to stress. According to a definition by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), adaptogens are said to increase the body’s resistance to a wide range of adverse biological, chemical and physical factors. In contrast to tonic and stimulants, an increased work capacity by adaptogens after discontinuation should not fall off again. Furthermore, adaptogens should be well tolerated and without side effects.