Rhodiola rosea (commonly golden root, rose root, roseroot, Aaron's rod, arctic root, king's crown, lignum rhodium, orpin rose) is a plant in the Crassulaceae family that grows in cold regions of the world. These include much of the Arctic, the mountains of Central Asia, the Rocky Mountains, and mountainous parts of Europe, such as the Alps, Pyrenees, and Carpathian Mountains, Scandinavia, Iceland, Great Britain and Ireland. The perennial plant grows in areas up to 2280 meters elevation. Several shoots grow from the same thick root. Shoots reaches 5 to 35 cm in height. Rhodiola rosea is dioecious – having separate female and male plants.
It has been hypothesized that Rhodiola rosea's effects are mediated by changes in serotonin and dopamine levels due to monoamine oxidase inhibition and its influence on opioid peptides, such as beta-endorphin, although these specific neurochemical mechanisms have not been clearly documented with scientific studies.
Rhodiola is included among a class of plant derivatives called adaptogens which differ from stimulants, such as nicotine and amphetamine. Adaptogens have less efficacy and different physiological effects than stimulants. Adaptogens are absent from mainstream medicine, but are popular in energy drinks. On the other hand, stimulants are widely used in mainstream medicine to treat conditions like narcolepsy, obesity, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In Russia and Scandinavia, R. rosea has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life. Such effects were provided with evidence in laboratory models of stress using the nematode C. elegans, and in rats in which Rhodiola effectively prevented stress-induced changes in appetite, physical activity, weight gain and the estrus cycle.
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Phytochemicals and potential health effects
Rhodiola rosea contains a variety of compounds that may contribute to its effects, including the class of rosavins which include rosavin, rosarin, and rosin. Several studies have suggested that the most active components are likely to be rhodioloside and tyrosol, with other components being inactive when administered alone, but showing synergistic effects when a fixed combination of rhodioloside, rosavin, rosarin and rosin was used. Authentication, as well as potency, of Rhodiola rosea crude material and standardized extracts thereof are carried out with validated high-performance liquid chromatography analyses to verify the content of the marker constituents salidroside, rosarin, rosavin, rosin and rosiridin.
Although rosavin, rosarin, rosin and salidroside (and sometimes p-tyrosol, rhodioniside, rhodiolin and rosiridin) are among suspected active ingredients of Rhodiola rosea, these compounds are mostly polyphenols. There is no evidence that these chemicals have any physiological effect in humans that could prevent or reduce risk of disease.
Although these phytochemicals are typically mentioned as specific to Rhodiola extracts, there are many other constituent phenolic antioxidants, including proanthocyanidins, quercetin, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid and kaempferol.
While animal tests have suggested a variety of beneficial effects for Rhodiola rosea extracts, there is scientific evidence only for depression as a benefit in humans. A 2007 clinical trial from Armenia showed significant effect for a Rhodiola extract in doses of 340–680 mg per day in male and female patients from 18 to 70 years old with mild to moderate depression. No side effects were demonstrated at these doses Another study also found antidepressant properties, possibly via the plant's inhibition of MAO-A and MAO-B.
Rhodiola rosea extract exerts an antifatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in healthy subjects and burnout patients with fatigue syndrome. Rhodiola significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and improved attention after four weeks of repeated administration. Because of its stimulating properties and potential to interfere with sleep, Rhodiola rosea should be taken early in the day.
Inhibitory activities against HIV-1 protease have also been studied.
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