Rhodiola rosea is a perennial flowering plant native to the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. It belongs to the Crassulaceae family and has a long history of traditional use in folk medicine, particularly in regions with harsh climates, such as Siberia and Scandinavia.

Rhodiola Natural Habitat

Rhodiola, also known as Arctic root or Golden root, is a hardy perennial plant, meaning that it lives for more than 2 years and can cope with the frost.

Due to its adaptability to extreme environmental conditions, Rhodiola is considered a hardy and resilient plant species. It typically grows in cold, mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is native to the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, where it thrives in harsh climates characterized by cold temperatures, high altitudes and rocky, well-drained and sandy soils.

In addition to its natural habitat, Rhodiola is also cultivated for medicinal and ornamental purposes in temperate regions around the world. However, it thrives best in environments that mimic its native habitat, with cold temperatures, ample sunlight and well-drained soils.

Rhodiola can be found growing naturally in various habitats, including:

Alpine Meadows: Rhodiola is often found growing in alpine and subalpine meadows, where it may form dense clusters or patches amidst other vegetation. These meadows are typically located at high elevations, above the tree line, where the climate is cold and the growing season is short.

Rocky Slopes and Cliffs: Rhodiola has a preference for rocky, well-drained soils and is often found growing on steep slopes, rocky outcrops, and cliff faces. Its shallow root system allows it to anchor itself securely in rocky substrates, where it can withstand harsh weather conditions and extreme temperatures.

Northern Forests and Tundra: In addition to alpine habitats, Rhodiola can also be found in boreal forests, subarctic regions, and tundra ecosystems across the Northern Hemisphere. It may grow alongside other cold-adapted plant species such as lichens, mosses and dwarf shrubs.

Mountainous Regions: Rhodiola is commonly associated with mountainous regions, where it may occur at elevations ranging from sea level to several thousand meters above sea level. It is often encountered in areas with cool summers, cold winters, and high levels of precipitation, such as the mountains of Siberia, Scandinavia, the Alps, the Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas.

Rhodiola History

Rhodiola has a legendary history dating back thousands of years. In 77 A.D., the Greek physician Dioscorides documented the medical applications of the plant, which he then called rodia riza, in his classic medical text De Materia Medica.

The Vikings depended on the herb to enhance their physical strength and endurance, while Chinese emperors sent expeditions to Siberia to bring back “the golden root” for medicinal preparations. The people of central Asia considered a tea brewed from Rhodiola rosea to be the most effective treatment for cold and flu. Mongolian physicians prescribed it for tuberculosis and cancer.

Active Ingredients in Rhodiola

The root of the Rhodiola plant is the most commonly used part for medicinal purposes. It contains a variety of bioactive compounds, including; rosavins, salidroside, flavonoids and polyphenols, all of which work in synergy to contribute to its health benefits.

Soviet Union Rhodiola Research

Research on Rhodiola rosea and other medicinal herbs was part of the Soviet Union’s great push to compete with the West in military development, the arms race, space exploration, Olympic sports, science, medicine and industry. It is a popular plant in traditional medical systems in Eastern Europe and Asia, with a reputation for stimulating the nervous system, decreasing depression, enhancing work performance, eliminating fatigue and preventing high altitude sickness.

Health Benefits of Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is a remarkable herb that has a wide and varied history of medical uses. It has long been known as a potent adaptogen. Adaptogens are substances that increase the body’s overall resistance to stress and help to normalise bodily functions.

Rhodiola has been traditionally used to; improve physical and mental stamina, reduce fatigue, enhance resilience to stress, promote overall well-being, strengthen the nervous system, fight depression, enhance immunity, elevate the capacity for exercise, enhance memory, aid weight reduction, increase sexual function and improve energy levels.

Rhodiola has 7 top health benefits:

Fights depression
Reduces stress
Aids muscle recovery
Enhances memory
Effective for cardiac problems
Increases body’s resistance to toxins
Stimulates and protects immune system

    Below we will explore some of the health benefits associated with Rhodiola in more detail:

    Rhodiola to Enhance Mood and Treat Depression

    Rhodiola is believed to have mood-regulating effects and may help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. It acts by modulating neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

    In animal studies, extracts of rhodiola seem to enhance the transport of the serotonin precursors, tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan, into the brain. Serotonin is a widely studied brain neurotransmitter chemical that is involved in many functions including; smooth muscle contraction, temperature regulation, appetite, pain perception, behavior, blood pressure and respiration. When balanced, it imparts a sense of contentment and mental ease.

    Either too much or too little serotonin has been linked to various abnormal mental states, such as clinical depression. Thus rhodiola has been used by Russian scientists, alone or in combination with antidepressants, to boost one’s mental state. This is a bonus in countries and seasons where being deprived of adequate sun over prolonged periods of months can lead to a condition known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, common to Northern European countries.

    Since Rhodiola rosea administration appears to impact central monoamine levels, it might also provide benefits and be the adaptogen of choice in clinical conditions characterised by an imbalance of central nervous system monoamines. This is consistent with Russian claims for improvements in depression and schizophrenia. It also suggests that research in areas such as seasonal affective disorder, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, among others, is warranted.

    Rhodiola for Stress Reduction

    Rhodiola rosea has long been known as a potent adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural substances that increase the body’s non-specific resistance and normalise functions of the body. When a stressful situation occurs, consuming adaptogens generates a degree of generalised adaptation (or non-specific resistance) that allows our physiology to handle the stressful situation in a more resourceful manner.

    It is believed that adaptogens work by increasing the ability of cells to manufacture and use cell fuel more efficiently. Rhodiola is believed to modulate the body’s stress response systems, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, to promote balance and resilience.

    There have been claims that Rhodiola has great use as a therapy to stop debilitating conditions, such as; decline in work performance, sleep disturbances, poor appetite, irritability, hypertension, headaches and fatigue, influenza, other viral exposures and other illness from developing into intense physical or intellectual strain.

    Rhodiola as an Adaptogen

    As mentioned above, adaptogens are substances that increase the body’s overall resistance to stress and help to normalise bodily functions.

    Two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of the standardised extract of Rhodiola rosea root (SHR-5) provide a degree of support for these claimed adaptogenic properties.

    “SHR-5” refers to a specific extract of Rhodiola rosea root standardized to contain a minimum of 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside. This standardized extract is commonly known as “Rhodiola SHR-5 extract.”

    Rhodiola SHR-5 extract is one of the most studied and researched forms of Rhodiola rosea extract and is known for its adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens are substances that help the body adapt to and cope with stress more effectively, promoting balance and resilience.

    Rosavins and salidroside are bioactive compounds found in Rhodiola rosea root that are believed to contribute to its potential health benefits. Rosavins are thought to have adaptogenic, anti-stress and mood-enhancing properties, while salidroside is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

    Rhodiola for Physical Endurance and Exercise Performance

    Rhodiola supplementation has been studied for its potential to enhance physical endurance, exercise performance and recovery. It may help improve oxygen utilization, reduce fatigue and increase energy levels during prolonged or strenuous physical activity.

    Rhodiola rosea has been shown to shorten recovery time after prolonged workouts, to increase attention span, memory, strength and anti-toxic action. Rhodiola rosea extract increases the level of enzymes, RNA and proteins that are important to muscle recovery after exhaustive exercise. It also stimulates muscle energy status; glycogen synthesis in muscles and liver; muscle protein synthesis and anabolic activity.

    Rhodiola for Weight Loss and Fat Burning

    Rhodiola has been shown to activate the lipolytic processes (fat breakdown) and mobilise lipids from adipose tissue to the natural fat burning system of your body for weight reduction.

    Rhodiola for Memory and Enhanced Mental Performance

    Rhodiola is often used to improve cognitive function, concentration and mental clarity. It may help reduce mental fatigue, improve mood and enhance overall mental performance, particularly during periods of stress or intense cognitive effort.

    Studies using proofreading tests have demonstrated that Rhodiola rosea enhances memorisation and concentration ability over prolonged periods. It increases the bioelectrical activity of the brain which improves memory and brain energy.

    In one study, forty students were randomised to receive either 50 mg standardised Rhodiola extract or placebo twice daily for a period of 20 days. The students receiving the standardised extract demonstrated significant improvements in physical fitness, psychomotor function, mental performance and general well-being.

    Subjects receiving the Rhodiola rosea extract also reported statistically significant reductions in mental fatigue, improved sleep patterns, a reduced need for sleep, greater mood stability and a greater motivation to study. The average exam scores between students receiving the Rhodiola rosea extract and placebo were 3.47 and 3.20, respectively.

    Rhodiola for Cardiovascular Health

    Some research suggests that Rhodiola may have cardioprotective effects, including reducing blood pressure, improving circulation and protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiovascular system.

    Rhodiola has also been shown to be effective for cardiac problems caused or aggravated by stress. Its action for these conditions is in its ability to decrease the amount of catecholamines and corticosteroids released by the adrenal glands during stress. The abnormal presence of these stress hormones will subsequently raise blood pressure, cholesterol, potassium levels and increase risk factors for heart disease.

    Rhodiola has been found to decrease harmful blood lipids and thus decrease the risk of heart disease. It also decreases the amount of cyclic-AMP (c-AMP) released into cardiac cells. Cyclic AMP is related to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body’s primary energy molecule. C-AMP acts as a ‘second messenger’ or liaison between the outer and inner environments of the cell. It assists in the uptake of more intracellular calcium into the heart thus promoting a greater potential for heart muscle contraction. Rhodiola thus regulates the heartbeat and counteracts heart arrhythmia’s.

    Anti-tumour Effects of Rhodiola

    Rhodiola has been shown to increase antitumor activity by increasing the body’s resistance to toxins. A range of antioxidant compounds have been identified in Rhodiola rosea and related species and significant free-radical scavenging activity has been demonstrated for alcohol and water extracts of Rhodiola. Rhodiola rosea might be useful in conjunction with some pharmaceutical anti-tumour agents.

    According to the information from Russian researchers, they have found that the oral administration of Rhodiola inhibited tumour growths in rats by 39% and decreased metastasis by 50%. It improved urinary tissue and immunity in patients with bladder cancer. In other experiments with various types of cancer, including adenocarcinomas, the use of extracts of Rhodiola Rosea resulted in significant increased survival rate.

    Rhodiola to Stimulate the Immune System

    Rhodiola both stimulates and protects the immune system by reinstating homeostasis (metabolic balance) in the body. It also increases the natural killer cells (NK) in the stomach and spleen. This action may be due to its ability to normalise hormones by modulating the release of glucocorticoid into the body.

    Rhodiola for Erectile Dysfunction

    Rhodiola has been shown to substantially improve erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation in men, and normalise their prostatic fluid.

    Rhodiola for Thymus and Adrenal Gland Function

    Rhodiola can clinically enhance thyroid function without causing hyperthyroidism, enhance thymus gland function and protect or delay thymus gland shrinking that occurs with ageing. It can also improve adrenal gland reserves without causing hypertrophy.

    Other Health Benefits of Rhodiola

    Many other benefits from the use of Rhodiola have been found, including its ability to; improve hearing, regulate blood sugar levels for diabetics and protect the liver from environmental toxins.

    Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

    Rhodiola Herb Notes / Side Effects

    Rhodiola’s 3 main side effects:-

    • Increased blood pressure
    • May thin blood
    • Nervous Excitability

    While Rhodiola is generally considered safe for most people when used as directed, it may interact with certain medications or have contraindications for individuals with certain medical conditions. Some people report increased blood pressure. Also Rhodiola may thin your blood, so discontinue use before surgery and consult your doctor if you take blood-thinning medications like Coumadin (warfarin) or supplements like vitamin E.

    Although rare, certain individuals who experience nervous excitability, feverish states and hypertension, should not use rhodiola unless supervised by a qualified practitioner. Persons who experience coronary spasm and fluctuations in arterial pressure should also use under supervision.

    To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to foetal development during pregnancy, infants who are breast-fed or for young chldren. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

    Also, since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician.

    It’s important to follow dosage recommendations provided by the manufacturer or healthcare professional and to use Rhodiola supplements responsibly.

    Latin Name

    Rhodiola rosea

    Common Names

    Arctic root, Golden root, Roseroot

    Properties of Rhodiola

    Adaptogenic, anti-ageing, anti-cancer, anti-depressant, anti-mutagenic, anti-oxidant, cardioprotective

    Rhodiola is Indicated for:

    Amenorrhea, asthenia, cancer, cardiac problems, colds and flu, debility (symptoms of asthenia), depression, enhancing thyroid and thymus gland function and immune system, fatigue, headaches, hypertension, improving hearing, improving sexual function, increasing attention span, mental performance, alertness and memory, physical exercise ability, strength and mobility, insomnia, maintaining energy levels, premature ejaculation, preventing stress-induced cardiac damage, protect the liver from environmental toxins, quicker muscle recovery, regulating blood sugar levels for diabetics, SAD (seasonal affected disorder), schizophrenia, sexual dysfunction (male), stress, weak erections.

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