Rhodiola rosea is a modest succulent found growing at high altitudes in extreme conditions. It was made famous by secretive Russian research in the 1960's. After one of the researchers left Russia to America and released some of these findings, it peaked the interest of people around the world. Since this time there has been a significant increase in research on this plant, mostly around its adaptogenic and antidepressant activities.
- CNS Stimulant (mild)
Liquid Extract (2:1)
3-10 g/day Equivalent
- Athletic performance enhancement
- Altitude sickness
- Poor appetite
- Poor concentration
- Age-related cognitive decline
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic heart failur (CHF)
+ Western Herbal Medicine
In France, rhodiola was considered a brain tonic in the early 19th century.
Alpine regions of Germany traditionally used rhodiola for headaches.
Rhodiola has been noted in the French Pharmacopoeia , Swedish Pharmacopoeia, German Pharmacopoeia , and Iclandic Pharmacopoeia .
There are about 24 different species in the genus Rhodiola . It's a member of the Crassulaceae family of plants (stonecrop family), which comprises about 1400 different species, distributed into 34 genera. This family mainly contains high altitude, hardy, succulent plants found growing in the northern Hemisphere (with some exceptions found in Southern Africa).
Another useful medicinal species in this family is Kalanchoe.
Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:
Rhodiola grows at high altitude, mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, the Arctic, and North America.
Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:
- salidroside (syn: rhodioloside)
- flavonoids, monoterpenes, triterpenes,
phenolic acids, phenylethanol derivatives (salidroside and
tyrosol) and phenylpropanoid glycosides such as rosin, rosavin and
rosarin specific to this plant [
Pharmacology and Medical Research:
+ Altitude Sickness
Salidroside and Tyrosol from Rhodiola cerrulea extracts have been shown to regulate AMPK , which plays a major role in energy homeostasis . It was also shown to maintain sodium channel transport by preserving NA+, K+, ATPase activity. The authors concluded that this mechanism may be responsible for Rhodiolas ability to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness, particularily HAPE .
+ CNS Stimulant
Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated the CNS stimulating activity of Rhodiola rosea  based on various cognitive and fatigue scores.
Other studies have found the use of rhodiola at varying doses inconclusive as a stimulant .
+ Memory And Cognitive Performance
Rhodiola extracts have been shown in animal models to improve learning capacity and short/long-term memory in animals trained to perform certain tasks .
Rhodiola has been shown to inhibit monoamine oxidase (both MAO-A and MAO-B) in animal studies .
MAO-A inhibitors have been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression . Rhodiola has been shown ot inhibit MAO-A & B in animal studies . Other animal studies investigating the use of rhodiola on depression has shown a non-dose dependant improvement on depression scores in mice, which has been shown to be due to the tyrosin and rhodiolaside content specifically [16, 18, 19].
A randomised double-blind clinical trial using a standardised Rhodiola rosea extract showed a significant antidepressant activity in the treatment group compared to placebo. This was based on various depressive symptoms including insomnia, emotional instability and somatization. .
+ Stress And Fatigue (Adaptogenic)
A group of 56 healthy physicians in a double blind randomised clinical trial were either given Rhodiola rosea extracts or a placebo control for 2 weeks. Physicians were chosen based on criteria that investigated the likelyhood that these physicians would experience mental exhaustion during a normal shift. A series of tasks were then given after each night shift to investigate any changes on mental fatigue as measured by a set of complex tasks. All of the physicians treated with Rhodiola rosea were noted to show improved test scores compared to those not treated with the herb. These effects were noted to be strongest after two weeks of use, and not a single adverse reaction was reported during the study. .
Another study investigating the mental and physical effects of a long term, low dose (SHR-5 50 mg) on students during examination periods found significant improvements on test scores among the treatment group . They were looking for the presence of mental and physical fatigue indications. The only test that showed no improvement in this study was the tapping test (muscular activation).
A study investigating the effects of Rhodiola rosea on free cortisol levels in chronically fatigues patients noted a reduction in cortisol levels after just a single treatment, and significantly after a 28 day course of treatment . Rhodiola was also shown to reduce serum blood levels of cortisol after a stressful event in rabbits .
Animal research has shown that Rhodiola rosea extracts are able to reduce the expression of c-Fos in the hypothalamus of rats . The expression of this gene is considered to be a valuable marker for identifying the activation of cells in the central nervous system associated with the stress response . This suggests the mechanism of action for Rhodiola rosea on reducing cortisol levels is the result of HPA modulation in the hypothalamus, such as increasing feedback sensitivity and therefore reducing overall CRH release rather than acting directly on the adrenal glands.
A Rhodiola rosea extract was shown to improve withdrawal symptoms in mice, with a noted increase in 5HT activity in treated animals. .
Still compiling research.
Products Containing Rhodiola:
The Sunlight Experiment
Updated: April 2018
- Mannucci, C., Navarra, M., Calzavara, E., Caputi, A. P., & Calapai, G. (2012). Serotonin involvement in Rhodiola rosea attenuation of nicotine withdrawal signs in rats. Phytomedicine, 19(12), 1117-1124. [animal studies]
- Petkov, V. D., Yonkov, D., Mosharoff, A., Kambourova, T., Alova, L., Petkov, V. V., & Todorov, I. (1986). Effects of alcohol aqueous extract from Rhodiola rosea L. roots on learning and memory. Acta physiologica et pharmacologica Bulgarica, 12(1), 3-16. [animal studies]
- Darbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., Panossian, A., Gabrielian, E., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (2000). Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue—a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine, 7(5), 365-371. [RCT]
- Van Diermen, D., Marston, A., Bravo, J., Reist, M., Carrupt, P. A., & Hostettmann, K. (2009). Monoamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 122(2), 397-401. [animal studies]
- Ganzera, M., Yayla, Y., & Khan, I. A. (2001). Analysis of the marker compounds of Rhodiola rosea L.(golden root) by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography. Chemical and pharmaceutical bulletin, 49(4), 465-467. [chemical analysis]
- Panossian, A., Wikman, G., & Sarris, J. (2010). Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 481-493. [review article]
- Shevtsov, V. A., Zholus, B. I., Shervarly, V. I., Vol'skij, V. B., Korovin, Y. P., Khristich, M. P., ... & Wikman, G. (2003). A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine, 10(2), 95-105. [RCT]
- Panossian, A., & Wagner, H. (2005). Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytotherapy Research, 19(10), 819-838. [Review]
- Spasov, A. A., Wikman, G. K., Mandrikov, V. B., Mironova, I. A., & Neumoin, V. V. (2000). 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, 7(2), 85-89. [RCT].
- Lee, S. Y., Shi, L. S., Chu, H., Li, M. H., Ho, C. W., Lai, F. Y., ... & Chang, T. C. (2013). Rhodiola crenulata and its bioactive components, salidroside and tyrosol, reverse the hypoxia-induced reduction of plasma-membrane-associated Na, K-ATPase expression via inhibition of ROS-AMPK-PKCξ pathway. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013. [in vitro].
- Reznick, R. M., & Shulman, G. I. (2006). The role of AMP‐activated protein kinase in mitochondrial biogenesis. The Journal of physiology, 574(1), 33-39.
- Kerharo, J., & Adam, J. G. (1974). La pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle: plantes médicinales et toxiques. (Pharmacopoeia).
- Steinegger, E., & Hansel, R. (1992). Pharmakognosie 5 Aufl. Kap 6.2. 1. Freie Phenolcarbonsauren Springer Verlag Berlin. (Pharmacopoeia).
- Hjaltalin, O. J. (1830). Islenzk grasafrædi. Koben havn.
- Kurkin, V. A., Dubishchev, A. V., Ezhkov, V. N., Titova, I. N., & Avdeeva, E. V. (2006). Antidepressant activity of some phytopharmaceuticals and phenylpropanoids. Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal, 40(11), 614-619.
- Darbinyan, V., Aslanyan, G., Amroyan, E., Gabrielyan, E., Malmström, C., & Panossian, A. (2007). Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic journal of psychiatry, 61(5), 343-348.
- Perfumi, M., & Mattioli, L. (2007). Adaptogenic and central nervous system effects of single doses of 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside Rhodiola rosea L. extract in mice. Phytotherapy Research, 21(1), 37-43.
- Panossian, A., Nikoyan, N., Ohanyan, N., Hovhannisyan, A., Abrahamyan, H., Gabrielyan, E., & Wikman, G. (2008). Comparative study of Rhodiola preparations on behavioral despair of rats. Phytomedicine, 15(1-2), 84-91.
- Priest, R. G., Gimbrett, R., Roberts, M., & Steinert, J. (1995). Reversible and selective inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A in mental and other disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 91(s386), 40-43.
- Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica, 75(02), 105-112.
- Panossian, A., Hambardzumyan, M., Hovhanissyan, A., & Wikman, G. (2007). The adaptogens Rhodiola and Schizandra modify the response to immobilization stress in rabbits by suppressing the increase of phosphorylated stress-activated protein kinase, nitric oxide and cortisol. Drug target insights, 2, 117739280700200011.
- Xia, N., Li, J., Wang, H., Wang, J., & Wang, Y. (2016). Schisandra chinensis and Rhodiola rosea exert an anti-stress effect on the HPA axis and reduce hypothalamic c-Fos expression in rats subjected to repeated stress. Experimental and therapeutic medicine, 11(1), 353-359.
- Luckman, S. M., Dyball, R. E., & Leng, G. (1994). Induction of c-fos expression in hypothalamic magnocellular neurons requires synaptic activation and not simply increased spike activity. Journal of Neuroscience, 14(8), 4825-4830.