Rhodiola rosea thrives in harsh, rocky and cold environments. Dried roots of rhodiola rosea contain chemicals that act as adaptogens, chemicals that reduce stress. Rhodiola rosea also acts as a stimulant and mood elevator by inhibiting the monoamine oxidase enzyme, MAO, in the brain. Medicines that more potently inhibit MAO are used as anti-depressant when other therapies prove ineffective. Taking rhodiola and an MAOI together can result in hypertensive crisis, a life-threatening condition of extremely high blood pressure.
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About Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola rosea is a perennial plant with thick roots resembling ginseng that grows in rocky or sandy soils in the arctic regions of Europe and Asia, including Siberia. Adapting to stress under these harsh conditions, rhodiola rosea produces five unique chemical compounds: rosavin, rosin, rosarin, rosiridin and salidroside. These chemicals act as adaptogens, improving physical and mental performance under stress, according to Drugs.com. Limited clinical trials have suggested that rhodiola may be beneficial in the treatment of depression.
MAO is an enzyme in the brain that breaks down most neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine. According to the Mayo Clinic, MAO inhibitors, MAOIs, are very effective in elevating levels of these neurotransmitters, providing a stimulating and mood-boosting effect useful in the treatment of depression. MAOIs are used rarely in the treatment of depression because safer antidepressants have been developed.
Under no circumstances should rhodiola rosea be taken concurrently with a MAOI. The combination greatly raises the risk of serious side effects. The surge in neurotransmitters greatly elevates blood pressure and heart rate, potentially leading to blood vessel damage, dangerous heart arrhythmias and serotonin storm, a condition where serotonin levels in the brain are dangerously high. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience confusion, rapid heart beat, dilated pupils, fever or unconsciousness while taking rhodiola rosea or an MAOI.
Rhodiola rosea is a much weaker inhibitor of MAO than MAOIs. Taken alone and in recommended doses, rhodiola rosea has few side effects. Taking rhodiola in the evening may interfere with sleep. Consult with your doctor before taking rhodiola rosea, even if you are not taking an MAOI. Management of MAOIs can be very complicated and involve avoiding foods, certain beverages and other medications; Your doctor or pharmacist can best advise you how to manage MAOI therapy.