Rhodiola crenulata extract for prevention of acute mountain sickness: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Oct 31;13:298. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-298.


Background: Rhodiola crenulata (R. crenulata) is widely used to prevent acute mountain sickness in the Himalayan areas and in Tibet, but no scientific studies have previously examined its effectiveness. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study to investigate its efficacy in acute mountain sickness prevention.

Methods: Healthy adult volunteers were randomized to 2 treatment sequences, receiving either 800 mg R. crenulata extract or placebo daily for 7 days before ascent and 2 days during mountaineering, before crossing over to the alternate treatment after a 3-month wash-out period. Participants ascended rapidly from 250 m to 3421 m on two separate occasions: December 2010 and April 2011. The primary outcome measure was the incidence of acute mountain sickness, as defined by a Lake Louise score ≥ 3, with headache and at least one of the symptoms of nausea or vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, or difficulty sleeping.

Results: One hundred and two participants completed the trial. There were no demographic differences between individuals taking Rhodiola-placebo and those taking placebo-Rhodiola. No significant differences in the incidence of acute mountain sickness were found between R. crenulata extract and placebo groups (all 60.8%; adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.02, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.69-1.52). The incidence of severe acute mountain sickness in Rhodiola extract vs. placebo groups was 35.3% vs. 29.4% (AOR = 1.42, 95% CI = 0.90-2.25).

Conclusions: R. crenulata extract was not effective in reducing the incidence or severity of acute mountain sickness as compared to placebo.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01536288.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / therapy
  • Adult
  • Altitude Sickness / drug therapy
  • Altitude Sickness / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Rhodiola / chemistry*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Plant Extracts

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01536288