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Herbal Extract Shows Promise in Treating Diabetes

Extract from Rhodiola rosea roots could be beneficial for treating diabetes.

Rhodiola rosea root could help manage type 2 diabetes, according to a University of California, Irvine study.

An extract from the roots of the Rhodiola rosea plant has been found to show promise as a safe and effective non-pharmaceutical option to help control type 2 diabetes, according to a team of researchers led by the University of California, Irvine.

According to a study recently published in Scientific Reports, Rhodiola rosea reduced the number of inflammatory biomarkers and improved insulin response in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes. It also decreased fasting blood sugar levels and altered the composition of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

“The prevalence of type 2 diabetes and the associated health costs have risen steadily in recent decades. Humans have used plants and natural products for thousands of years to treat diseases, and our study shows Rhodiola rosea is a good candidate for further investigation,” said corresponding author Dr. Mahtab Jafari, UCI professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “Current treatment recommendations include lifestyle changes as well as oral and intravenous medications. However, these drugs have significant limitations or side effects, increasing the need for new therapeutic interventions.”

The scientists tested whether Rhodiola rosea could enhance glucose homeostasis using a genetically engineered mouse model that develops obesity, insulin resistance, and high blood sugar, comparable to advanced human type 2 diabetes. Age-matched male and female mouse cohorts were randomly allocated to either the control group, which got water, or the experimental group, who were administered Rhodiola rosea extract.

“Our findings suggest that Rhodiola rosea might be beneficial for treating type 2 diabetes, acting through changes in the microbiome that result in increased gut barrier integrity and decreased translocation of inflammatory molecules into the blood circulation,” Jafari said. “Gut barrier integrity influences body weight and insulin response, and this botanical product may improve the responses of liver and muscle tissues to the insulin produced by the pancreas.”

The team’s next steps are to perform a larger follow-up study in a different mouse model of obesity-induced diabetes to confirm these findings and to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved. Ultimately, Jafari hopes to conduct Rhodiola rosea clinical trials in patients with type 2 diabetes.

“Our research presents a solid case for the importance of conducting high-quality pre-clinical studies based on sound methodologies to evaluate the efficacy of standardized plant extracts. We have set the stage for human clinical studies, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes for type 2 diabetes patients,” Jafari said.

Reference: “The impact of Rhodiola rosea on biomarkers of diabetes, inflammation, and microbiota in a leptin receptor-knockout mouse model” by Mahtab Jafari, Jasmin Grace Juanson Arabit, Robert Courville, Dara Kiani, John M. Chaston, Cindy Duy Nguyen, Nilamani Jena, Zhong-Ying Liu, Prasanthi Tata, and Richard A. Van Etten, 22 June 2022, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-14241-7

The study was funded by the UCI School of Medicine-Pharmaceutical Sciences Collaborative Research Funds and Mr. and Mrs. John P. and Lois C. Wareham.

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