Rhodiola rosea also known as rose root, golden root, and arctic root, is an Alpine plant growing at elevations between 3300 and 5400m above sea level, found in the northern regions of Europe, Scandinavia, Lapland, Russia and Alaska. The plant is practically unknown in the US, partly because the places where the plant grew were kept secret, and partly because so was to a large extent the research conducted on it. The reasons were the plant’s extraordinary properties, and the fear of competition. The plant’s active ingredients are a variety of polyphenols, the alkaloid rosavin, salidrozid, etc.
- Anti-depressant. The herb acts as anti-depressant in a variety of ways. Some of its active components like rosavin and salidrozid, increase the transport of serotonin precursors, like the amino acid tryptophan and 5-HTP into the brain, thus raising the level of serotonin by about 30 percent. These compounds through a monoamine oxidase mechanism also reduce the degradation of mood-boosting neurotransmitters which fight depression and lighten the mood. Other relevant effects are discussed under Anti-stress below.
- Antioxidant. Some of the herb’s ingredients have been shown to possess powerful antioxidant activity, being particularly protective of lipid peroxidation. Knowledgeable people boast that persons taking rhodiola extracts live to over 100 years of age.
- Anti-stress. Like other so-called “adaptogens,” rhodiola increases tolerance to stress, whether physical, mental or environmental, partly by modifying the organism’s response to stress stimuli. The herb appears to act on the hypothalamus in such a way as to normalize stress response. Rhodiola was also shown to increase the levels of beta-endorphin in plasma, which helps prevent hormonal changes usually indicative of stress. The above detailed increase in serotonin activity would be also beneficial in reducing the anxiety linked with chronic stress.
- Immune booster. Research shows rhodiola’s benefits extend to the immune system. The herb boosts anti-tumor activity by increasing the body’s resistance to toxins. The increased levels of beta-endorphin referred to above, also increase cardiac output and have a cardioprotective effect. Rhodiola also increases the level of beneficial enzymes, RNA and proteins important for muscle recovery after strenuous effort.
- Male sexual tonic. One of the principal traditional uses of rhodiola has been as a tonic of male sexual function. It is advertised as a natural Viagra, but unlike the prescription drug, without any known toxicity or side effects. In one study involving men suffering from weak erection and /or premature ejaculation, treatment with rhodiola led to substantial improvement.
- Mental stimulant. Rhodiola was shown in proofreading tests to increase attention span and memory to a considerable degree.