A herb used in traditional European folk medicine for over 3,000 years could be a potential treatment option for depression, according to the results of a new study. The study, published in Phytomedicine, was 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. Rhodiola rosea, also referred to as Roseroot, has been used in traditional folk medicine to promote work endurance, increase longevity and promote resistance to several health conditions including fatigue, altitude sickness and depression.
Previous studies have suggested that roseroot could enhance mood by stimulating the receptors of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotoninin the brain that are involved with mood regulation. Other research also suggests the herb affects beta-endorphin levels in the body. - Source: Medical News Daily
According to Herb Wisdom Roseroot is known in Asia and Eastern Europe to be efficacious in easing fatigue and enhancing work performance, alleviating depression, stimulating the nervous system and preventing high-altitude illness.
The ancient Greeks used Rhodiola rosea. In 77 A.D., and Greek physician Dioscorides documented the medical applications of the plant, which he then called rodia riza, in his classic medical text De Materia Medica. It grows wild in the Caucasus Mountains and its documented history gives us an idea of how this herb traveled more than 2000 miles to Ancient Greece. Dating back to 3,000 BCE (Greek Bronze Age), trading expeditions crossed the Aegean Sea, Hellespont (Dardanelles), Marmara Sea, Bosphorus and the Black Sea to a place called Colchis (Republic of Georgia).
The Argonauts, a tale that blends both fact and fantasy, hints at an intriguing theory of how Rhodiola rosea might have made the incredible journey to Greece from its native land.
Ovid, Metamorphoses :
"The task remained [for Jason] to charm the Draco to sleep, that ever-wakeful beast with threatening crest and three-forked tongue and curving poison-fangs, the ghastly guardian of the golden tree. Then with the herb's Lethean juice (sucus Lethaeus) Jason sprinkled the creature and pronounced three times the words that bring deep peaceful sleep, that stay the troubled seas, the swollen streams, and on those sleepless eyes sleep fell at last. And Jason won the famous Golden Fleece and proudly with his prize, and with her too, his second prize, who gave him mastery, sailed home victorious to his fatherland."
The herb in question is thought to be Opium by some and Roseroot by others. Clues are given in Latin Lexicon's where the term Lethean is thought to come from far away regions and to invoke a sense of forgetfulness and deep sleep. If too much is prescribed, Lethal.
It wasn't just the Greeks that found this herb to bring their people the power of endurance, the Vikings also used the herb to enhance physical strength and power of mind. Emperors of China referred to it as the 'Golden Root' (it was valued above Gold) used in medicinal preparations and would often send out expeditions to Siberia to root out this Magical herb. Mongolian physicians would prescribe a tea made from the root to treat everything from tuberculosis to cancer.
To this day, the people of Siberia claim that people who drink Rhodiola rosea Tea will live to be more than 100 years in age. Centuries old practices are making a come back in our modern age, a time when people are looking for cures from the Earth to treat both body and spirit. There was a time when the harvest and use of this wild root were closely guarded by Siberian families but as populations and trade goods grew in number; Rhodiola rosea became a most valued commerce and was traded for Georgian wine, fruit and honey.
For additional reading:
USDA: Plant Profile Roseroot
Extract used in the Healing Arts
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