The herbal extract of a yellow-flowered mountain plant native to the Arctic regions of Asia and Europe has been found to increase the lifespan of fruit fly populations.
The study, led by Mahtab Jafari, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, Irvine, found that flies which ate a diet rich with Rhodiola rosea lived on an average of 10 percent longer than fly groups that didn't eat the herb.
Rhodiola rosea is also known as the golden root, and 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.
"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 Jafari.
"Our results reveal that Rhodiola is worthy of continued study, and we are now investigating why this herb works to increase lifespan," added Jafari.
In the study, the 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. The analysis found that Rhodiola significantly reduced mortality in the flies. On average, the herb increased survival 3.5 days in males and 3.2 days in females.
Jafari said that 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.
The study will appear in the online version of Rejuvenation Research.