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Common Name: Roseroot | Scientific Name: Rhodiola Rosea

Family Name: Crassulaceae


Roseroot, or Rhodiola, is a classic adaptogen identified by the pioneer of stay well herbal medicine, II Brekhman. It was traditionally used to increase physical strength and ultimately was determined to do just that.


Chapter from My PhD Thesis

Chapter from My PhD Thesis

Part Used: Root

Chemical Constituents: Significant phytochemicals include salidroside, rosarin, rosavin, rosin, rosiridin, 5% essential oil (monoterpene hydrocarbons, monoterpene alcohols, straight chain aliphatic alcohols, primary oils including n-decanol, geraniol, and 1,4-p-menthadien-7-ol). (3)

Rhodiola rosea is a member of the Sedum family and indigenous to the northern parts of Ireland , Scotland , Scandinavia, and Russia . A traditional medicine in Russia and Scandinavia , the drug is used to increase physical endurance, combat weakness, improve work capacity, and induce longevity.

Medically, it is used to treat altitude sickness, fatigue, debility, depression, anaemia, impotence, gastrointestinal affections, infections, nervous disorders, infertility, cold, flu, tuberculosis, and cancer. Intriguingly, the Vikings used the drug to enhance physical endurance and strength. Linnaeus, the famous botanist, discussed its use in hernia, leucorrhoea, hysteria, and headache. Rhodiola rosea (RR) was introduced in the first Swedish Pharmacopoeia published in 1755. (22)

Though those that had a local supply knew RR, it does not appear to have been an item of commerce. Gerard, an English drugalist working in 17 th century London who was familiar with many foreign drugs, had little to say of it. “ There is little extent of the faculties of Rosewort: but this I have found that if the root be stamped with oile of roses and laid to the temples of the head, it easeth the paine of the head .” (20) The drug remained a local remedy until the 1960′s when the Russian adaptogen researchers began investigating it for potential adaptogen activity. Between 1960 and present, over 180 pharmaceutical, phytochemical, and clinical studies have been conducted on Rhodiola rosea. (22)

Brekhman’s Adaptogen Criterion
Applying Brekhman’s criterion to Rhodiola rosea (RR), it is clear that it exhibits the properties of an adaptogen in the following studies:

In vitro and animal studies
* RR was found to be safe in acute and sub-acute toxicity studies. (13)
* RR increased non-specific resistance of fresh water snail embryos against environmentally induced stress. (8)
* RR increased resistance to free radical damage by acting as a free radical scavenger. (1)
* RR reduced hyopoxia induced pancreatic injury either by increasing intracellular oxygen diffusion or by acting as an anti-oxidant. (4)
* RR decreased the oxygen consumption of myocardium and oxygen consumption index, decreased coronary artery resistance, and had no effect on coronary blood flow in anaesthetised dogs. (5)
* RR reduced stress induced cardiac damage. The cardioprotective and anti-stress effects are associated with limited adrenergic effects on the heart. (18)
* RR had an anti-tumour and anti-metastatic effect in the Lewis lung cancer model in mice (potentiated cyclophosphamide). (7)
* RR demonstrated a 90% inhibition rate of mutagenicity in Ungernia victoris cultured cells. (12) Shown to act as antimutagenic drug in bone marrow of cells of mice due to its ability to raise the efficiency of the intracellular DNA repair mechanism. (15)
* RR reduced the toxicity and liver damage associated with the anti-tumour drug Adriamycin without reducing efficacy of the anti-tumour drug. (19)
* RR normalised gastric functions, regardless of the nature of the perversion, in an animal model using cisplatin induced alterations. (13)
* RR showed a marked preventative antiarrythmic effect when adrenaline and CaC12 were administered to rats. (14,16)

Human studies
In a series of human studies, RR also possessed Brekhman’s adaptogenic properties. Namely, Rhodiola rosea:

* Improved superficial bladder cancer by improving characteristics of the urothelial tissue integration, parameters of leukocyte integrins, and T-cell immunity. (17)
* Reduced fatigue in a double blind cross over study of healthy physicians working night shifts. (9)
* Reduced fatigue of students associated with the stress of examination periods. (10)
* Increased the amount of veloergometric work accomplished, increased kinesthesiometric sensitivity, and increased the general condition. It also decreased the levels of psychic fatigue and situation anxiety. (11)
* Increased erythropoiesis during sleep deprivation. (2)

In many senses, Rhodiola rosea represents a classic tonic drug. It was used to increase work performance, fertility, and to remedy the signs and symptoms of ageing. It was also used to bolster those with failing health. From a research perspective, Rhodiola rosea complies with all the criterion set forth by Brekhman for an adaptogen. As such, there is evidence to support its use in raising resistance to stressors.

• Pieroni A et al. In vitro antioxidant activity of non-cultivated vegetables of ethnic Albanians in southern Italy . Phytotherapy Research 2002 Aug: 16(5): 467–73. From PubMed abstracts.
• Probalova NV , Mechanisms underlying the effects of adaptogens on erythropoiesis during paradoxical sleep deprivation. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine 2002 May; 133(5): 428–432. From PubMed abstracts.
• Rohloff, J. Volatiles from rhizomes of Rhodiola rosea, Phythochemistry 2002, March: 59: (6): 655–61. From PubMed abstracts.
• IP, SP et al. Association of free radicals and the tissue renin-angiotensin system: prospective effects of rhodiola, a genus of Chinese Drug, on hyopoxia induced pancreatic injury. JOP 2001 Jan; 2(1): 16–25. From PubMed abstracts.
• Zhang et al. The effect of Rhodiola capsules on oxygen consumption of myocardium and coronary artery blood flow in dogs. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 1998 Feb; 23(2): 104–6. From PubMed abstracts.
• Ganzera M et al. Analysis of the market compounds of Rhodiola rosea by reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography. Chem Pharm Bull ( Tokyo ) 2001Apr; 49(4): 465–7. From PubMed abstracts.
• Razina TG et al. Medicinal plant preparations used as adjuvant therapeutics in experimental oncology. Eksp Lin Farmakol 2000 Sept–Oct; 63(5): 59–61. From PubMed abstracts.
• Boon-Niermeirjer EK ET al. Phyto-adaptogens protect against environmental stress induced death of embryos from the fresh water snail Lymnae stagnalis. Phytomedicine 2000 Oct; 7(5): 389–99. From PubMed abstracts.
• Darbinyan V et al. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue-a double bind cross over study of a standardised extract SHR-5with a repeated low dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine 2000 Oct; 7(5): 365–71. From PubMed abstracts.
• Spasov AA et al. A double blind, placebo controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low dose regimen. Phytomedicine 2000 Apr; 7(2): 85–89. From PubMed abstracts.
• Spasov AA et al, The effect of the preparation rodakson on the psychopathophysiological and physical adaptation of students to an academic load. Eksp Klin Farmakol 2000 Jan–Feb; 63(1); 76–78. From PubMed abstracts.
• Duhan OM et al. The antimutagenic activity of biomass extracts from the cultured cells of medicinal plants in the Ames test. Tsitol Genet 1999 Nov–Dec; 33(6):19–25. From PubMed abstracts.
• Rege NN et al. Adaptogenic properties of six rasayana drugs used in Ayurvedic medicine. Phytotherapy Research 1999 June; 13(4): 275–91. From PubMed abstracts.
• Maimeskulova LA et al. The anti-arrhythmia action of an extract of Rhodiola rosea and of n-tyrosol in models of experimental arrhythmia’s. Eksp Klin Farmakol 1998 Mar–Apr; 61(2): 37–40. From PubMed abstracts.
• Salikhova RA et al. Effect of Rhodiola rosea on the yield of mutation alterations and DNA repair in bone marrow cells. Patol Fiziol Eksp Ter 1997 Oct–Dec; (4): 22–4. From PubMed abstracts.
• Maimeskulova , LA et al . The participation of the mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors in the realisation of the anti-arrhythmia effect of Rhodiola rosea. Eskp Lkin Farmakol 1997 Jan–Feb; 60(1): 38–39. From PubMed abstracts.
• Bocharova AO et al. The effect of Rhodiola rosea extract on the incidence of recurrences of a superficial bladder cancer. Urol Nefrol 1995 Mar–Apr; (2): 46–7. From PubMed abstracts.
• Maslova LV et al. The cardioprotective and anti-adrenergic activity of an extract of Rhodiola rosea in stress. Eksp Klin Farmakol 1994 Nov–Dec; 57(6): 61–3. From PubMed abstracts.
• Udintsev SN et al. The enhancement of the efficacy of Adriamycin by using hepatoprotectors of plant origin in metastases of Ehrlich’s adenocarcinoma to the liver in mice. Vopr Onkol 1992; 38(10):1217–22. From PubMed abstracts.
• Johnson, Gerard. The herbalor general history of plants. 1633. London . P. 532.
• Ye at al. Effect of Salidroside on cultured myocardial cells anoxia/re-oxygenation injuries. Zhuongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1993. Sep; 14(5)P. 424–6. From PubMed abstracts.
• Brown et al. Rhodiola: A phytomedical review. Drugalgram 2002: 56:40–52.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.