Characterization of the anxiolytic activity of Nunavik Rhodiola rosea

Christian Cayer, Fida Ahmed, Vicky Filion, Ammar Saleem, Alain Cuerrier, Marc Allard, Guy Rochefort, Zul Merali, John T. Arnason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Rhodiola rosea is a medicinal plant used by the indigenous Inuit people of Nunavik and Nunatsiavut, Eastern Canada, as a mental and physical rejuvenating agent. This traditional use led to the present investigation of R. rosea in the context of anxiety disorders. An alcohol extract of R. rosea roots was characterized phytochemically and orally administered for three consecutive days to Sprague-Dawley rats at 8 mg/kg, 25 mg/kg, and 75 mg/kg body weight. The rats were subjected to three behavioral paradigms of anxiety, including the elevated plus maze, social interaction, and contextual conditioned emotional response tests. Rhodiola rosea showed dose-dependent anxiolytic activity in the elevated plus maze and conditioned emotional response tests, with moderate effects in the higher-anxiety SI test. The active dose varied according to the anxiety test. In order to elucidate a mechanism, the extract was further tested in an in vitro GABAA-benzodiazepine receptor-binding assay, where it demonstrated low activity. This study provides the first comparative assessment of the anxiolytic activity of Nunavik R. rosea in several behaviour models and suggests that anxiolytic effects may be primarily mediated via pathways other than the GABAA-benzodiazepine site of the GABAA receptor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1391
Number of pages7
JournalPlanta Medica
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Crassulaceae
  • GABA-benzodiazepine receptor
  • Rhodiola rosea
  • anxiolytic
  • conditioned emotional response
  • elevated plus maze
  • social interaction


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