Rhodiola: the Arctic adaptogen

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Authors: Michelle Morgan and Kerry Bone
Date: May 2005
From: Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients(Issue 262)
Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,926 words

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General Information

Rhodiola rosea (Sedum roseum) is found in Arctic regions including Alaska, northeastern Siberia and northern parts of Europe. The botanical name alludes to the rose-like odor of the rootstock when freshly cut. The use of Rhodiola in the orthodox medicine of the former USSR goes back to a number of pharmacological and clinical investigations in the early 1960s. Rhodiola preparations became incorporated into the official medicine by 1969 and are described in the last official USSR Pharmacopoeia and the current Russian Pharmacopoeia. Other common names include golden root, rose root, Arctic root and Russian Rhodiola.

Clinical Summary


Adaptogen, tonic, antitumour, hepatoprotective, hepatotrophorestorative.

Therapeutic Indications

* Fatigue, mental and/or physical exhaustion.

* To improve mental performance, concentration and memory, especially when under stress.

* To enhance physical performance and endurance.

* May assist sexual function in men.

* Adjuvant treatment of cancer.

Dosage & Administration

Typical doses are 150 to 600 mg/day of extract corresponding to 6 to 12 g of original root, ideally standardized to 2% rosavins (6 to 12 mg/day) and 3% salidroside (9 to 18 mg/day).

Suggested Combinations

Rhodiola combines well with other adaptogens and tonics (in appropriate dosages): Panax ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Withania somnifera, Astragalus membranaceus, shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) and damiana (Turnera diffusa). It also would combine well with cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and pau d'arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) for the adjuvant treatment of cancer, and with hepatoprotective and hepatotrophorestorative herbs (Schisandra chinensis, milk thistle (Silybum marianum)).

Adverse Reactions

Very few side effects have been reported. A small clinical study found an increase in symptoms in a subgroup of depressed patients with hysteric and phobic symptoms.

Contraindications & Cautions

Caution is advised in depressed patients with hysteric and phobic symptoms, such as might occur with bipolar disorder. As with all strong adaptogenic and tonic herbs, concurrent use with stimulants such as caffeine is best avoided.

Traditional Uses

The root of Rhodiola has been used in the traditional medicine of many countries including Russia, Scandinavia and Middle Asia. Rhodiola was regarded as a tonic and stimulant and used to increase physical endurance, attention span, memory and work productivity and resistance to high altitude sickness. Other uses include treating fatigue, depression, anaemia, impotence, infections (including colds and influenza), cancer, nervous system disorders and headache; for longevity and to enhance fertility. (1-3) Rhodiola rosea root was used as a food, for example in Siberia, Greenland and Alaska, but not in Norway--perhaps because of the sharper taste of plant from that location. The root has been used to flavour beer in Norway, and a decoction of the root was used as a shampoo, to promote hair growth, prevent hair loss, and for treatment of dandruff. (4)

Scientific Studies


Phenylpropanoids such as rosavin, rosarin and rosin are typical components of Rhodiola rosea root. Other constituents include salidroside (a hydroxyphenethyl (tyrosol) glucoside) and the monoterpene rosiridin. Salidroside is present in a variety of species, including some outside the Rhodiola genus. The term rosavins is used collectively for rosavin, rosin and rosarin. Because of the occurrence...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Morgan, Michelle, and Kerry Bone. "Rhodiola: the Arctic adaptogen." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, no. 262, May 2005, pp. 26+. Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A132081144