Rhodiola Rosea and All of It’s Wonderful Benefits

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Who has even heard of rhodiola rosea? Is there any benefits to an unknown herb? Something that has wonderful benefits shouldn’t it be a well-known remedy or treatment? It has been claimed that rhodiola rosea is a miracle herb. If this is so then why is it relatively unknown? It is supposed to boost this and boost that. There could be some validity to all the awesome benefits the herb is supposed to bring to the human body.

History of the Infamous Rhodiola Rosea

It has a nice Italian name doesn’t it? It is commonly known as golden root, rose root or roseroot.   Aaron’s rod, Arctic root, king’s crown, lignum rhodium, orpin rose are other names this plant is known by. It is a perennially flowering plant found mainly growing wild in the arctic regions of Europe, , including Britain, Asia and North America, and can be propagated as a groundcover. (This is a plant that covers the ground as it grows. It protects the topsoil from erosion and drought.) Although it has long been used in traditional medicine for several disorders, notably including treatment of anxiety and depression, there is little scientific evidence to verify these uses. This means that the plant made have been traditionally treated for these various disorders this doesn’t guarantee it will help to cure the disorder or reduce the symptoms of of the disorder.

The plant grows to be 5 to 40 centimetres (2.0 to 15.7 in) tall, fleshy, and has several stems growing from a short, scaly rootstock. The plant doesn’t grow high but it can grow wide to cover much ground. Flowers have 4 sepals and 4 petals, yellow to greenish yellow in color sometimes tipped with red, about 1 to 3.5 millimetres (0.039 to 0.138 in) long, and blooming in summer and only blooms in summer which is iroonical because it grows in the arctic portions of the earth. The plant has both male and female plants. R. rosea grows in cold regions of the world, including much of the Arctic, the mountains of Central Asia, scattered in eastern North America and mountainous parts of Europe. It grows on sea cliffs and on mountains at high altitudes. The leaves are eaten raw and have a bitter taste or they are boiled like spinach and eaten like that. It is used in salad.

Traditional Uses

In Russia and Scandinavia, R. rosea has been used for hundreds of years to fight the cold  Siberian climate and stressful life. It is also used to increase physical endurance and resistance to high altitude sickness unfortunately the scientific evidence for this use is weak and there is not a lot of evidence to support this treatment. The plant was used in ancient Chinese medicine as well. Furthermore, a 2012 a report written by the, European Medicines Agency, on literature  states that the clinical studies showed many deficiencies in their quality. The clinical studies centered on the dried extract of R. Rosea The Agency said the  “well established use” terminology cannot be accepted. (The phrase “well established” was not defined in context). They added “The traditional use as an adaptogen ‘for temporary relief of symptoms of stress such as fatigue and sensation of weakness’ is appropriate for traditional herbal medicinal products.” (Again this statement was generalized and referenced no particular content in the clinical study).

Another quote “”The traditional use as an adaptogen ‘for temporary relief of symptoms of stress such as fatigue and sensation of weakness’ is appropriate for traditional herbal medicinal products. … The long-standing use as well as the outcome of the clinical trials support the plausibility of the use of the mentioned herbal preparation in the proposed indication.” (The proposed indication was not specifically referenced.) Basically, the agency said the Rhodiola rosea worked in the purpose it was intended to be studied for in the clinical studies. Another comment mentioned through 2012 that human studies did not have sufficient quality to determine whether R. rosea can affect fatigue or any other condition. This statement in essence is saying that all the benefits that are claimed to be offered by this herbal plant are not adequately proven. Could this blow all the benefits claimed to be provided by this plant be shown to be erroneous? Let’s look at some of the benefits attributed to this plant.

Stressed out

It is said that this herbal plant tea has for thousands of years helped to soothe the nerves of people who experienced the stress of life in rural China and the people who suffered from depression because of the foul weather in Siberia. This particular tea has supposedly been calming people from nervous conditions and stress for generations. The chemical components contained in Rhodiola rosea tea can affect the hormonal levels in the body causing ir to relax.

Pressed Out

Measure rhodiola roots into your jar and bring 1 quart of water just to the boil

Rhodiola tea increases energy levels as one of its side effects. This seems like more of a benefit instead of a side effect. People who suffer from fatigue-induced depression could really benefit from this benefit. Generally, people who suffer from this type depression look for alternative methods to treat their depression. Some of the compounds contained, in this widely distributed herb, act as adaptogens which cause long-lasting effects on hormonal processes and metabolic functions. So what this fact is saying is that the tea instead just treating this type of depression and chronic stress will cure these painful health conditions. This is a very strong claim to make. Based on the earlier statement that human studies through 2012 were of such low quality that none of the conditions this herb is able to treat were proven. It is said that rhodiola rosea has been combined with many antidepressants sold on the market today and the results have been promising.

Brain Booster

In the previous section the two health benefits discussed may help the brain and hormone levels that affect mood. Recently, medicine has became concerned with health of the whole brain. Research may have shown that rhodiola rosea can have healing effects on several aspects of cognitive health including including memory and concentration. For aging populations battling dementia or Alzheimer’s, rhodiola rose tea may be suggested to became a daily treatment to help boost cognition and memory. This may keep the faculties intact longer. There is no medical evidence to support this tea can help to delay the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Weight Loss Extract    

rhodiola extracts and teas can be effective for weight loss

Recent research suggests that using rhodiola extracts and teas can be effective for weight loss. The release of adipose tissue (Adipose tissue, or fat, is an anatomical term for loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes. Its main role is to store energy in the form of fat, although it also cushions and insulates the body) may be the key to losing weight. This is a new theory put out about how weight may be lost. Researchers have been looking for a natural enzyme to accomplish this and golden root may be that enzyme. Rhodiola speeds up the burning of fat cells in the body and combined with exercise may help the body to melt pounds. There is no research available to support this claim.

Wake Up

So, there are compounds in this herbal plant that can speed up the metab olism and and energize the circulation of blood and oxygen in the body. If the organs in the body receive more oxygen they are supposed to be able to function at peak levels. This is especially true when muscles, the brain, and nerve cells receive this oxygen boost. None of these benefits have been clinically proven. What about oxidative damage? Can increased oxygen levels cause an imbalance that could widespread cellular damage? It is not certain that organs will function at a higher level when oxygen flow to these organs is increased. It is rumored that athletes in Asia and  Russia legally benefit from this energy enhancer.

Rhythm of a Healthy Heartbeat

Inside the human body are some dangerous hormones and these are known as stress hormones. By reducing the levels of corticosteroids and catecholamines released by the body it is able to reduce the effects of those hormones on all the organs of the body especially the heart. It may be that higher levels of stress hormones may cause high blood pressure, heart disease, and dangerous levels of potassium. Research may have shown that Rhodiola rosea may help to regulate the heartbeat and lower the risk of heart heart arrhythmias, as well as a reduction in the chances of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. For these particular health benefits the research references were not mentioned. So there is doubt about the validity of these claims. It has never heard of a natural root herb like this one being able to regulate the heartbeat. Usually heart medications are used to control the heartbeat and get the heart to function normally not natural herbs.  

Cancer Aide

This is a hard one to accept that this herb can control and cure cancer. There have not been a lot of natural remedies proven to control and cure cancer. So the assertion is that this herb is closely linked to controlling certain types of cancer. This is due to their high level of antioxidants found in this herb. Also activating anti-tumor activity is supposed to be key in helping to stop cancerous cells from growing. The herb is able to help the body in both of these processes. It is mentioned that clinical studies conducted on this herbs impact on curing cancers are ongoing bladder cancer research has shown promising results. In other words there just is not enough clinical evidence currently to support that this herb can control and cure any type of cancer.

Immune System Booster

The herb is able to stimulate the production of NK cells

Again, this is speculation that this herb can benefit the immune system. The herb is able to stimulate the production of NK cells (Natural killer cells or NK cells are a type of cytotoxic lymphocyte critical to the innate immune system. The role NK cells play is analogous to that of cytotoxic T cells in the vertebrate adaptive immune response.) in the spleen and stomach that is able to enhance the immune response that is supposed to establish homeostasis within the body. It really is not known if a natural herb can stimulate the production of NK cells in the human body. There was no compounds listed that would stimulate this cellular process to take place. This just  may not be a valid health benefit.

Sexual Helper

This supposed benefit will not be discussed because the benefits projected do not make any scientific or medical sense. There was also no known reasons given why this herb would produce these sexual effects. There were no compounds listed that would enhance these effects either. This is a weak health benefit suggestion at best.

Off the Beaten Path- Stress Tonic: Rhodiola Tea

Peppermint Tea

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbl rhodiola roots
  • 1 Tbl raw honey, optional
  • 2 wide mouth quart jars
  • fine mesh strainer

Mad Method:  

  • Measure rhodiola roots into your jar and bring 1 quart of water just to the boil.
  • Carefully pour the hot water over the roots.
  • Place a lid on top and let steep for 12 minutes.
  • Set a timer as overly-steeped rhodiola gets quite bitter and astringent.
  • Gently stir the mixture before placing a fine mesh strainer over your second quart jar and straining your tea.  ideally, let cool until 105 – 115 degrees, (you could put your finger in it for a few seconds before it feels too hot) and add honey, stir or shake to dissolve.
  • The cooling of the tea, keeps from cooking your honey thus allowing you the double benefit of all the wonderful qualities of raw honey.

Fun Notes

Rhodiola roots are generally good for two steepings. a second steeping will issue a softer tea. Let the roots cool to room temperature before returning the the original quart jar and repeating the the process above.  Again, keep in mind you should only steep the tea for 12 minutes before straining. The tea keeps for a few days to a week in the fridge. Enjoy cold, hot or somewhere in-between. In other words make this tea to your preferred taste.

Side note:  Though rhodiola is free of caffeine, it is a mental stimulant. If taken late in the day, some may experience difficulty getting to sleep Of equal importance to note, once asleep, vivid dreams may follow. There is no solid proof that vivid dreams will follow but the fact that this tea is a super stimulant you may be awake for several hours losing precious sleeptime. It may behoove you to not consume this tea any later than mid morning.

Creative ways to take Rhodiola Rosea

  • For supplement tablets, buy ready-made tablets of Rhodiola Rosea Root. You could do this online as there are many websites that offer it for sale. This could be more convenient for you if you have a busy schedule since it could just be delivered to your place if you wish. See to it that the product you’re purchasing contains three parts Rosavins up to one part Salidroside for best value. Generally, adult dosage is approximately 100 mg to 300 mg per day. You could also choose to consult your doctor first so you would know what dosage is best for you to take, or if you’re even allowed to take it altogether, especially if you have other health problems or condition.
  • Make your own extract of Rhodiola Rosea Root or if you like, you can purchase already prepared ones. To make your own, mince 30 g of dried Rhodiola roots in a coffee grinder until it becomes powder. Put the powder in a container and add 150 ml of vodka. Mix thoroughly and keep the mixture for three to five days at room temperature. Filter the extract mixture. Consume 1/2 tsp. of the extract three times a day.
  • To make a tea, take 5 g of Rhodiola roots and cut it into fine pieces. Pour one cup of boiling water over the cut roots and let it stay for approximately four hours. Filter. Add juice to improve taste, if desired.

One More Tea

  • Rhodiola tea can be made at home from scratch.
  • Begin by finely chopping 5g of rhodiola root.Place the chopped root in a container and pour 1 cup of boiling water over it.
  • Allow the tea to brew (steep) for 4 hours and filter. Drink 1/5 cup 3-5 times a day. Rhodiola tea by itself can have a strong medicinal taste, so if the flavor is too strong or unpleasant, consider diluting the tea with fruit juice, tonic water, or with other herbal teas.
  • For those who prefer a less time-consuming method of preparing herbal tea, there are many commercial teas available in stores that contain rhodiola rosea either as its primary ingredient or as a supporting ingredient.

Defining Conclusion

Creative ways to take Rhodiola Rosea

There are many outstanding claims made about the health benefits of this wonderful herb. But many of the claims discussed in this article are either still under scrutiny pending further research or are just not valid. A key point in researching this article was the fact that through 2012 human studies conducted with this herb were poor in quality. The results have not been verified and the statement went on to conclude that because of the low quality of these studies none of these health benefits could be substantiated. Best advice is to consult with your doctor before applying any of these potential health benefits.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.