Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Rhodiola Crenulata Extract Doesn't Prevent Acute Mountain Sickness

It’s amazing how many remedies are being suggested and tested as prophylaxis against acute mountain sickness. I think one of the reasons is that to do the tests, the investigators usually take a trek to someplace interesting or even fun, like the mountains of Nepal. I suspect that there will be testing forever, or until every ingestible food and drug has been evaluated.

The American College of Emergency Physicians held a Research Forum in association with its Annual Scientific Meeting in Denver, Colorado in October, 2012. One of the presentations was entitled “Rhodiola Crenulata Extract Prophylaxis for Acute Mountain Sickness: A Randomized, Double Blind,  Placebo Controlled, Crossover Trial.” Chiu and colleagues evaluated Rhodiola crenulata, which is widely used to prevent AMS in certain Himalayan regions. Its mechanism of action has never been described in more detail than to claim that it decreases cerebrospinal fluid accumulation.

In their study, it was determined that an extract of Rhodiola crenulata (which contains the antioxidant substance salidroside and has been studied for other purposes, such as preventing nerve tissue injury) was not effective in reducing the incidence or severity of acute mountain sickness when compared with placebo, and had no protective benefit for any outcome measure as defined by the Lake Louise acute mountain sickness score. So, as defined by this particular study, another folk remedy bites the dust.


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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.