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Rhodiola rosea (Golden Root, Roseroot, Aaron's Rod) 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, 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.
Rhodiola rosea may be effective for improving mood and alleviating depression. Pilot studies on human subjects showed that it improves physical and mental performance, and may reduce fatigue.
Rhodiola rosea's effects potentially are related to optimizing serotonin and dopamine levels due to monoamine oxidase inhibition and its influence on opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins, although these specific neurochemical mechanisms have not been clearly documented with scientific studies.
In Russia and Scandinavia, Rhodiola 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.
Phytochemicals and potential health effects
The dried rhizomes contained essential oil with the main chemical classes: monoterpene hydrocarbons, monoterpene alcohols and straight chain aliphatic alcohols were the most abundant volatiles detected in the essential oil, and a total of 86 compounds were identified (Rohloff, 2002). Geraniol was identified as the most important rose-like odor compound besides geranyl formate, geranyl acetate, benzyl alcohol and phenylethyl alcohol. Its oxygenated metabolite Rosiridol is an aglycon of Rosiridin (Kurkin et al., 1985a; Kurkin and Zapesochnaya, 1986b) - one of the most active constituents of Rhodiola in bioassay guided fractionation of Rhodiolathe extract (van Diermen, 2009). Rosiridin was found to inhibit monoamine oxidases A and B in vitro implying its potential beneficial effect in depression and senile dementia (van Diermen, 2009). More than 50 polar compounds were isolated from the water alcoholic extracts, they are: monoterpene alcohols and their glycosides, cyanogenic glycosides, phyhylethanoids and phenylpropanoids, flavonoids, aryl glycosides, proanthocyanidins and other gallic acid derivatives. (Zapeschnaya, and Kurkin, 1983, 1983; Kurkin et al., 1985a; Kurkin, and Zapesochnaya, 1986a,b; Ganzera et al., 2001; Tolonen et al.,2003; Saratikov and Krasnov, 2004; Akgul et al., 2004; Ma et al.2006, Yousef et al., 2006, Ali et al.,2008; Avula et al., 2008).
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. Also, the word Rosavin is a trademarked brand name for a particular brand of Rhodiola extract from Ameriden International, Inc.
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 for which no physiological effect in humans is proved to 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, only for depression is there scientific evidence for Rhodiola components having anti-disease benefits in humans. A clinical trial 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.
Rhodiola rosea extract SHR-5 exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in healthy subjects (Darbinyan et al., 2000; Spasov et al.,2000b; Shevtsov et al., 2003) and burnout patients with fatigue syndrome (Olsson et al., 2009). Rhodiola significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and improved attention after four weeks of repeated administration (Olsson et al., 2009).
Olsson, E.M.G., von Schéele, B., Panossian, A.G., 2009. A randomized double-blind placebo controlled parallel group study of SHR-5 extract of Rhodiola rosea roots as treatment for patients with stress related fatigue. Planta medica 75,105-112.
Rhodiola rosea extract is mainly used in the form of capsules or a tablet, though tinctures are also available. The capsules and tablets often contain 100 mg of a standardized amount of 3 percent rosavins and 0.8–1 percent salidroside because the naturally occurring ratio of these compounds in Rhodiola rosea root is approximately 3:1. Some companies believe that there are as many as 12 active biochemical compounds in the plant and do not subscribe to what they perceive as "artificial" standardization on only two of those compounds.
A typical dosage is one or two capsules or tablets daily; one in the morning and when taking two, one in the early afternoon. Rhodiola rosea should be taken early in the day because for some it can interfere with sleep. Others can take it in the evening with no effect on sleep patterns. If a user becomes overly activated, jittery or agitated then a smaller dose with very gradual increases may be needed. It is contraindicated in excited states.
The dose may be increased to 200 mg three times a day if needed. A high dose is considered to be daily intakes of 1,000 mg and above.
In a 2007 clinical trial from Armenia, total effective doses were in the range of 340–680 mg per day for people aged 18 to 70. No side effects were demonstrated at these doses in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
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