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Rhodiola Rosea rootRHODIOLA ROSEA (Russian Rhodiola, Golden root) -
Anti-Aging Medicine of 21st Century

A large proportion of all aging diseases (perhaps 70-80%) is believed to occur because the stress level is too high, and/or too long-term. High-stress modern living is probably the main factor causing chronic disease and premature aging. Fortunately, Mother Nature has an answer to this challenge - a unique class of herbal products called "adaptogens".
Adaptogens have the broadest spectrum of healing properties of any herbal medicine, but their unique value is that they specifically relieve stress.

History of Rhodiola rosea

Adaptogens were discovered in 1947 by the Russian scientist Dr. Nicolai Lazarev, who in fact coined the name "adaptogen". Dr. Lazarev was also the mentor of Dr. Brekhman, who conducted extensive research on adaptogenic herbs. Dr Brekhman's first major focus was the now well known Panax Ginseng, also called Korean or Chinese Ginseng. This worked, but unfortunately it has a few drawbacks that have since become evident. It sometimes has side effects such as causing constipation and over-excitement which for some people is too stimulating. Dr. Brakhman soon moved on to other herbs and became recognized as the world's leading expert on adaptogens. Since then, hundreds of experimental and clinical studies on adaptogens have been done - most of them in Russia and Germany. Most of these studies have shown the outstanding stress-protective and immune system enhancing capacities of adaptogens.
You may be familiar with the names of what are now called "first-generation" adaptogens: Panax Ginseng, American Ginseng, and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng). But in this article I want to tell you about a unique adaptogen of the "second generation", Rhodiola rosea (Russian Rhodiola), which is a powerful anti-aging phyto supplement with adaptogenic and anti-stress activity. In Russia, Rhodiola rosea also known as "Golden root", has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life. But before describing this unusual herb, let's say a few words about stress itself.

How do you feel?
The main effects of adaptogens are an increased availability of energy during the day, a reduction of stressed feelings, increased endurance, greater mental alertness, and deep and restful sleep. Also, adaptogens significantly accelerate the recovery process after illness. The author of this article was ill for many years, and became weaker and weaker, despite trying a variety of medicines and supplements. Doctors could not diagnose the illness, but probably it was an autoimmune disorder, with too many symptoms to name. One day one of my friends had sent me roots of Rhodiola rosea from Moscow (Russia) and advised me to prepare Rhodiola water tea to drink. After some trial and error, I found this Siberian root worked better than anything else I had tried; and it increased the effectiveness of other supplements as well. I decided to search to find out more about this wonderful herbal adaptogen.
According to modern science, adaptogens are natural plant products that increase the body's ability to cope with internal and external stress factors, and normalize the functions of the organism. They help maintain the stable internal environment inside the organism known as homeostasis. An important characteristic is that they are safe, possessing few known side effects.
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The three phases of stress progression
1) Alarm phase - When some new stress factor strikes the body this causes a sudden release of internal stress-hormones - corticosteroids and catheholamines. If the stress is very intense it can damage the regulatory systems of the body permanently and immediately (for example in the case of exposure to high levels of nuclear radiation); but if one is lucky, or if the person takes adaptogens, than it is possible to smoothly progress further to the "adaptation phase".
2) Adaptation phase - If the stress factor continues (for example, in sport it might be heavy athletic training) our body learns to tolerate the stressful stimulus - "adapt" - and increases its resistance to the stress factor. The "adaptation phase" is usually a safe period. The longer we can stay in the "adaptation phase", the better.
3) Finally, the exhaustion phase appears, when the body fails to fight stress anymore and simply gives up. In this "exhaustion phase", disease symptoms rapidly appear and get worse.
Diseases associated with stress may appear in the first "alarm phase", but they mainly appear in the third "exhaustion phase" when the body cannot fight stress anymore. This third phase usually develops after a period of months or years. Everything depends on the duration of the "adaptation phase". Sometimes the body may be fortunate and escape this third phase altogether, provided it can keep the stress under control. It is possible to do this by taking adaptogens; they can help you to stay in the "adaptation phase" for as long as possible.
Taking Rhodiola rosea extract, can make coping with stress much easier! When regularly taking Rhodiola the initial "alarm phase" of your stress will smoothly progress to the "adaptation phase". Rhodiola rosea can help you to stay in this safe "adaptation phase" for a much longer time or even permanently, so preventing your body from proceeding further to the extremely dangerous "exhaustion phase".
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Scientific background
Promising "second-generation" adaptogen Rhodiola rosea (Russian Rhodiola) is a perennial plant with red, pink, or yellowish flowers. It has no biological relation to the "common" rose, but due to its similar fragrance it has been used as a substitute for Attar of Roses. One of the greatest things Rhodiola does is enhance mental and physical performance. It has been widely used by Russian athletes and cosmonauts to increase energy. Rhodiola is cardio-protective, normalizing the heart rate immediately after intense exercise. It improves the nervous system and mental functions such as memory, by increasing blood-supply to the muscles and brain, and it also increases protein synthesis (1,3,4). Rhodiola rosea has extraordinary pharmacological properties as an anti-mutagen and anti-depressive agent. In this respect Rhodiola rosea is much more powerful than other adaptogens. In one study done by O.M. Duhan and colleagues (5), the anti-mutagenic activities of Panax Ginseng and of Rhodiola rosea were compared. It became clear that the extracts of Rhodiola rosea had a higher capacity to counteract gene mutations induced by various mutagens (up to about 90% inhibition in some cases). The anti-depressive and anti-stress activity of Golden root is higher than that of St. John's Wort, Ginkgo biloba and Panax Ginseng. Furthermore, Rhodiola rosea is five times less toxic than Panax ginseng. In an experiment on rats with Pliss lymphosarcoma (PLS) it was shown (6) that partial hepatectomy, a course application of Rhodiola rosea extract or combined effects inhibit the growth of tumors by 37%, 39% and 59%, respectively, and that of metastases by 42%, 50% and 75%. In one human study (7) oral administration of Rhodiola rosea extract to 12 patents with superficial bladder carcinoma (T1G1-2) improved the characteristics of the urothelial tissue integration, parameters of leukocyte integrins and T-cell immunity. The average frequency of relapses for these patients was found to fall twice. In another clinical trial 150 individuals suffering from depression took Rhodiola rosea extracts for a period of one month. At the end of that period two-thirds of them had full remission of clinical manifestations of depression, and had become more active and more sociable. Daytime weakness and general weakness disappeared. Rhodiola rosea extracts reduce significantly the yield of cells with the chromosome aberrations in vivo and inhibit unscheduled DNA synthesis induced by N-nitroso-N-methylurea in vitro (8). It is emphasized that Rhodiola rosea extracts have rejuvenative properties due to their ability to raise the efficiency of the intracell DNA repair mechanisms.

Pharmacological activity - quality matters!
There are products on the market that contain Rhodiola rosea. But unfortunately these products often have only limited or even no biological activity at all. Common reasons for these deficiencies are bad harvesting during the wrong season, harvesting from a climatic rigion not suitable for the plant or from a bad geographic area, harvesting wear species of the plant, also overdrying, or using an inferior extraction method. The manufacturing process also is a key factor in the preparation of a high quality adaptogenic extract, as is the selection of high quality raw materials using proper assay methods. The main active components of true Rhodiola rosea that are responsible for the extraordinary potency of Rhodiola rosea are cinnamol alcohol glycosides, especially ROSAVIN - cinnamyl-O-(6-O-L-arabinopyranosyl-D-glucopyranosid) and SALIDROSIDE. Quality Rhodiola rosea extract should contain at least 3% rosavins and 1% or less salidroside.

Rhodiola rosea and immunity
Rhodiola rosea stimulates the immune system in two ways: FIRST - by specific direct stimulation of immune defence (stimulates one of the most important type of immune cells - Natural Killer Cells, NK-Cells seek and destroy the infected cells on our bodies). Rhodiola rosea normalises the immune system by improving T-cell immunity (7) Rhodiola has been shown to increase the body's resistance to toxins that may accumulate during infection development. SECOND - by making a person less susceptible to stress. Scientists found out that stress suppresses immunity and destroys our resistance to various forms of bacterial or virus attack. Due to the natural killer cell's effect on tumours Rhodiola rosea may enhance B cell immunity by preventing the suppression of B cell immunity, which can occur during stress. Being under stress, a great portion of the body's energy is expended for nothing. When we are chronically exposed to stress that continually robs energy from other systems. The general effect is a lowered immune response and decreased health.

For Whom Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola has been used in connection with f
atigue, mental performance and athletic performance (to improve endurance). The Russian medicine has traditionally given Rhodiola rosea to its cosmonauts, soldiers, sportsmen and ageing political leaders as an effective anti-aging medicine. Russian Rhodiola helped them to improve cognitive functions and physical performance.
Prevention of development of fatigue, asthenic states, catarrhal seasonal diseases;
Use in comprehensive therapy for treatment of neuroses, depression, hypotension, and other diseases;
Restoration of health following recently endured communicable and somatic diseases;
Increased bodily resistance to physical and mental overloads, and negative environmental effects;
In sport - improved performance, resistance to strain, restoration of strength with increased physical loads;
Prevention of alcohol and drug addiction;
For elderly and aged persons;
It may be successfully taken by drivers, flight personnel, traffic controllers, as well as other professional cohorts of people occupationally engaged in work requiring increased attention.

Rhodiola rosea - natural alternative to Meridia (Reductil) slimming tablets
Bulgarian researchers have demonstrated that intake of the herbal remedy Rhodiola rosea activates hormone-sensitive lipase, which plays a key role in breaking down the fat stored in adipose tissue (2). Previous Soviet clinical studies showed that the combination of Rhodiola rosea together with physical exercise can be a powerful tool in the activation of fat-tissue lipase, resulting in the breakdown of stored fat. Georgian clinical data showed that the intake of tablets of Rhodiola rosea extract by obese subjects led to a mean weight loss of 19 pounds (11% reduction). In a control group, in contrast, the weight change was insignificant. The Bulgarian study suggests a detailed mechanism for the fat-loss effect (2).

The usual amounts taken are 200 to 600 mg per day of a Rhodiola rosea extract standardized to contain 2-3% rosavins and 0.8-1% salidroside. (10) The nonstandardized amount would be 1 gram of the root three times daily (usually 5-6 tablets per day), the amount for the alcoholic extract (40% alcohol) is 5 to 40 drops (0.5 - 1 teaspoon) two to three times per day and for the tea from Rhodiola rosea roots is 1 - 2 cap per day. Course for alcoholic extract: 10-20 days. Rhodiola is usually taken with water before meals or at mealtimes. Please note, that Rhodiola has a more stimulating effect at lower amounts, and a more sedating effect at higher amounts.

Side effect and contraindications
Rhodiola has been the subject of many clinical studies. No side effects or interactions have been reported. Animal studies indicate that rhodiola has a low level of toxicity.
(10) Don't take rhodiola during pregnancy or while breast-feeding. There is no information available about the safety of rhodiola in pregnancy or lactation. Insomnia may be a risk with high doses of rhodiola. To avoid insomnia, better to take rhodiola before breakfast for emotionally sensitive persons. A high dose is considered to be daily intakes of 1,500 to 2,000 mg and above of a Rhodiola rosea standardized extract.
There are no well-known drug or nutrient interactions associated with Rhodiola rosea. However, much remains to be learned about this herb and how it may interact with other adaptogens, such as Siberian ginseng, as well as with other dietary supplements.

Rhodiola or Ginseng?
Rhodiola rosea (Russian Rhodiola) has all the advantages of Ginseng and Eleutherococcus but lacks the tendency to cause over-excitement that may sometimes occur with ginseng, or constipation as sometimes occurs with eleutherococcus. Russian Rhodiola is FIVE times less potentially toxic, than Panax ginseng.

Russian or Chinese?
Be Careful!
Very precise analytical tests done by HPLC did confirm, that only Rhodiola rosea of Russian origin contains key active components: Rosavin, Rosarin, Rosin. Often so-called Rhodiola rosea formulas, sold in the United States (such as "Tibetan" Rhodiola or "Chinese" Rhodiola) contain no activity at all, as these formulas lack the key ingredient Rosavins while they are high in Salidroside. Only Rhodiola rosea of Russian origin (West and North Siberia) has the highest pharmacological activity and contains key active components ROSAVIN, ROSARIN, ROSIN and SALIDROSIDE. While so-called Tibetan Rhodiola and Rhodiola rosea of Chinese origin very often do not have enough potency and contains only SALIDROSIDE. Compare content of key substances in dry roots: Chinese Rhodiola often has no activity at all, but there are other species of Rhodiola that are predomin-ating in China, such as Tibetan Rhodiola, Rhodiola quadrifida, Rhodiola kirilowii, Rhodiola heterodonta and many others. For the best quality of Rhodiola rosea click here

In Conclusion
Rhodiola rosea of Russian origin is now slowly but surely becoming more widely accepted in Europe and the USA as a powerful anti-aging, anti-stress formula. In today's culture of hustling and bustling, with chaos coming from every direction, I do not think we can afford to ignore this natural medicine any longer. It is in our interest to take advantage of these powerful herbs if we want to survive the demands modern life imposes on us. One does not have to be a professor or scientist to research herbs and educate oneself on how they work. The motivation depends on how much one desires to improve one's quality of life. Since life is so short, our advice is: don't wait until you have a day off, maybe next week. Why not take Russian Rhodiola as soon as possible, so your week will be more productive?
Taking Rhodiola rosea, you will be better able to cope with stress!

Rhodiola Rosea cultivation
Rhodiola Rosea can be cultivated in two ways - from seed, or by vegetative propagation.
Cultivation from seed
The seeds of Rhodiola Rosea are very small (about 1.5 - 2mm long by 0.3 - 0.6mm). Growing from seed can be difficult, because the dried seeds have a low germination capacity (only about 2 - 25% of them will germinate). However, this can be improved if, prior to planting, the seeds are stored in moist sand in cool conditions for about a month. (The dry seeds are soaked in water overnight, then mixed into moist sand and kept in a suitable container). After storage for one month at a temperature between 0 - 2°C, the germination capacity will typically increase to around 75%. And by using natural stratification, sowing outdoors in the autumn (during September-October), it is possible to achieve 95-100% germination. After planting (see below), the seeds sprout after 4 - 5 days and the first leaves appear in 25 - 40 days.
Vegetative propagation (root division)

Rhodiola Rosea can also be propagated by root division. For this, you need to cut the underground rhizome-like roots into sections 1.5 to 15cm long, maintaining at least one bud and some hair-roots on each piece. Root division can be performed throughout the autumn months before frost, or in early spring. The cut pieces should be transplanted into soil, and after 3 weeks the plantlets should start growing.
The best type of soil is sandy or brown forest soil, rich in humus. The soil needs to be weeded regularly. The bed should be in an open, sunny place, and prior to planting should be treated with processed manure (3 - 5kg/sq m) or fertiliser (4 - 6kg/sq m). Adding grit, gravel, or vermiculite to the soil increases soil porosity and encourages growth; however, peat-based fertiliser should not be used. During the first month, the plants need to be carefully watered and weeded. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in the greenhouse for the first winter. Plant out in early summer of the following year.


The plants usually reach their maximum height in the third year after planting, but a minimum of 5 years must pass before the medicinal roots can be harvested.
Harvesting should take place in autumn, since at this time the plant stops its vegetative growth and the dry-matter content of the root is higher. Harvesting is a simple process of digging out the roots by hand. In the case of large-scale cultivation, mechanical assistance from a cultivator machine etc. would be required.

Processing the harvested roots

The gathered roots should be sliced into thin strips about 10cm long, and dried in a well-ventilated drier at 40 - 50°C for 4 - 7 days. Under these conditions the original white color of the roots turns light brown. The roots should not be dried in the sun, since strong light destroys the active medicinal component! The dried root is best stored in paper packets in a cool dry place, and will keep for up to 3 years.
By: John Hyatt, CA
Disclaimer: The ideas, procedures and suggestions contained in this article are intended for informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor. All materials regarding your health require medical supervision. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Selected References:
1 Maslova L.V. et al. (1994) "The cardioprotective and antiadrenergic activity of an extract of Rhodiola rosea in stress" Eksp Klin Farmakol 57(6): 61-6
2. Zakir Ramazanov, Z. et al. (1999) "New secrets of effective natural stress and weight management, using Rhodiola rosea and Rhodendron caucasicum" ATN/Safe Goods Publishing, CT.
3. Germano, C. et al. (1999) "Arctic root. The powerful new ginseng alternative" Kensington Publ.Corp.
4. Petkov, V.D. et. al. (1986) "Effects of alcohol aqueous extract from Rhodiola rosea L. roots on learning and memory" Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg 12(1): 3-16
5. Duhan, O.M. et al. (1999) "The antimutagenic activity of biomass extracts from the cultured cells of medicinal plants in the Ames test" Tsitol Genet Nov-Dec 33(6): 19-25
6. Udintsev SN; et.al. (1991) "The role of humoral factors of regenerating liver in the development of experimental tumours and the effect of Rhodiola rosea extract on this process" Neoplasma;38(3): 323-31
7. Bocharova OA et.al. (1995) "The effect of a Rhodiola rosea extract on the incidence of recurrences of a superficial bladder cancer (experimental clinical research)" Urol Nefrol (Mosk) Mar-Apr (2): 46-7
8. Salikhova RA et.al. (1997) "Effect of Rhodiola rosea on the yield of mutation alteration and DNA repair in bone marrow cells". Patol Fiziol Exsp Ter Oct-Dec (4): 22-4
9. Linh PT et.al. (2000) "Quantitative determination of salidroside and thyrosol from the underground part of Rhodiola rosea by high performance liquid chromatography" Arch Pharm Res Aug 23(4): 349-52
10. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: a phytomedicinal overview. Herbalgram 2002;56:40–52.