Reviewed: Kasper S, Dienel A. Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017;13:889-898. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S120113.
“Burnout” refers to stress-related emotional and physical exhaustion and is associated with a decrease in performance. Symptoms can be physically and mentally debilitating, and there is a considerable risk of developing psychiatric and somatic disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular conditions). Conventional medications for these disorders, such as antidepressants and anxiolytics, may result in unpleasant side effects, so researchers are looking for alternative treatment options. Traditionally used as an adaptogen to manage symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and associated fatigue, rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea, Crassulaceae) root and rhizome preparations previously have demonstrated therapeutic potential for relieving symptoms of burnout.1
This exploratory, open-label, single-arm, multicenter study investigated the effects of rhodiola on patients (N = 117) aged 30-60 years with comparable stress burdens (e.g., home caring of family members with disabilities) and who exhibited burnout symptoms. The study was conducted at four locations in Vienna, Austria, and took place from July 2011 through October 2012.
The experimental rhodiola preparation was a 200-mg tablet of Vitango (also known as Vitano; Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG; Karlsruhe, Germany) taken twice daily, before breakfast and lunch, for a treatment duration of 12 weeks. The active ingredient of Vitango is WS 1375 (also known as Rosalin; Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG), a proprietary dry ethanolic extract (60% w/w) of R. rosea roots (1.5-5:1), corresponding to 300-1,000 mg of rhodiola root.2
The severity of symptoms of stress and burnout, mood state, and physical function were assessed at the screening visit prior to treatment and at week 12 through a combination of validated questionnaires (self-reported), clinician assessments, physical examinations (including vital signs), laboratory tests (not described), and an electrocardiogram (ECG). Along with the other measures, seven subjective stress symptoms were evaluated in patients four times during the trial using Numerical Analog Scales (NASs). The results showed a significant improvement beginning on day 7 of treatment and improvement continued until week 12, with a decrease in mean overall scores for all seven NAS measures.
In addition, each patient was assessed by a clinician at the beginning of the trial, on day 7, week 8, and the end of the trial using the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale to evaluate the severity of burnout and stress symptoms and their change from baseline. The CGI scores showed a marked improvement by week 12 in 41.9% of patients.
The authors concluded that treatment with rhodiola extract improved most outcome measures of life-stress and burnout symptoms, but their findings remain preliminary and should be confirmed in randomized controlled trials.
—Kathleen Bennett, MS
- Brown RP, Gerbarg PL, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A phytomedicinal overview. HerbalGram. 2002;(56):40-52.
- Vitano Rhodiola Rosea Product Monograph. Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals website. Available at: www.schwabepharma.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Vitano-Monograph-PRINT.pdf. Accessed April 16, 2018.