Planta Med 2013; 79(15): 1385-1391
DOI: 10.1055/s-0033-1350709
Biological and Pharmacological Activity
Original Papers
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Characterization of the Anxiolytic Activity of Nunavik Rhodiola rosea

Christian Cayer
1   Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
2   School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
3   University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Fida Ahmed
1   Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Vicky Filion
1   Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Ammar Saleem
1   Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Alain Cuerrier
4   Jardin botanique de Montréal, Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada
Marc Allard
5   Nunavik Biosciences Inc., Montréal, Canada
Guy Rochefort
5   Nunavik Biosciences Inc., Montréal, Canada
Zul Merali
2   School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
3   University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
6   Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
John T. Arnason
1   Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

received 03 April 2013
revised 10 July 2013

accepted 15 July 2013

Publication Date:
23 August 2013 (online)


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.

Supporting Information

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