Herbal Extract Increases Lifespan
…of Fruit flies.
The herbal extract of a yellow-flowered mountain plant indigenous to the Arctic regions of Europe and Asia increased the lifespan of fruit fly populations, according to a University of California, Irvine study.
Rhodiola rosea. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California – Irvine)
Flies that ate a diet rich with Rhodiola rosea, an herbal supplement long used for its purported stress-relief effects, lived on an average of 10 percent longer than fly groups that didn’t eat the herb.
“Although this study does not present clinical evidence that Rhodiola can extend human life, the finding that it does extend the lifespan of a model organism, combined with its known health benefits in humans, make this herb a promising candidate for further anti-aging research,” said Mahtab Jafari, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences and study leader. “Our results reveal that Rhodiola is worthy of continued study, and we are now investigating why this herb works to increase lifespan.”
In their study, the UC Irvine researchers fed adult fruit fly populations diets supplemented at different dose levels with four herbs known for their anti-aging properties. The herbs were mixed into a yeast paste, which adult flies ate for the duration of their lives. Three of the herbs – known by their Chinese names as Lu Duo Wei, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang and San Zhi Pian – had no effect on fruit fly longevity, while Rhodiola was found to significantly reduce mortality. On average, Rhodiola increased survival 3.5 days in males and 3.2 days in females.
Rhodiola rosea, also known as the golden root, grows in cold climates at high altitudes and has been used by Scandinavians and Russians for centuries for its anti-stress qualities. The herb is thought to have anti-oxidative properties and has been widely studied.
Soviet researchers have been studying Rhodiola since the 1940s on athletes and cosmonauts, finding that the herb boosts the body’s response to stress. And earlier this year, a Nordic Journal of Psychiatry study on people with mild-to-moderate depression showed that patients taking a Rhodiola extract called SHR-5 reported fewer symptoms of depression than did those who took a placebo.
Jafari said she is evaluating the molecular mechanism of Rhodiola by measuring its impact on energy metabolism, oxidative stress and anti-oxidant defenses in fruit flies. She is also beginning studies in mice and in mouse and human cell cultures. These latter studies should help understand the benefits of Rhodiola seen in human trials.
Rejuvenation Research. ahead of print. doi:10.1089/rej.2007.0560.
Rhodiola: A Promising Anti-Aging Chinese Herb
Mahtab Jafari, Jeffrey S. Felgner, Irvin I. Bussel, Tony Hutchili, Behnood Khodayari, Michael R. Rose, Laurence D. Mueller.
Using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, we investigated the effects of Rhodiola on life-span. Rhodiola is a plant root used in traditional Chinese medicine that may increase an organism’s resistance to stress. It has been proposed that Rhodiola can extend longevity and improve health span by alleviating oxidative stress. Rhodiola supplied every other day at 30 mg/mL significantly increased the lifespan of Drosophila melanogaster. When comparing the distribution of deaths between Rhodiola-supplemented and control flies, Rhodiola-fed flies exhibited decelerated aging. Although the observed extension in lifespan was associated with statistically insignificant reductions in fecundity, correcting for a possible dietary restriction effect still did not eliminate the difference between supplemented and control flies, nor does the effect of Rhodiola depend on dietary manipulation, strongly suggesting that Rhodiola is not a mere dietary restriction mimetic. Although this study does not reveal the causal mechanism behind the effect of Rhodiola, it does suggest that the supplement is worthy of continued investigation, unlike the other Chinese herbals, Lu Duo Wei (LDW), Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (BZYQT), San Zhi Pian (SZP, Three Imperial Mushrooms), Hong Jing Tian (Rhodiola) that were evaluated in this study.