Rhodiola rosea: 11 properties, benefits and uses

Rhodiola rosea, or rodiola rosa, family of the Crassulaceae , classified by Linnaeus in 1753, seems to have been the object of study, by the Russians, for its unique characteristics, disclosed only after the fall of the Soviet Union.Spontaneously it grows in Northern Europe and North Asia at an altitude of 3-5 thousand meters, but it is also found in Europe, the Alps and the Pyrenees.

Rhodiola rosea can reach a height of 70 cm and is recently cultivated also in Italy, in the province of Cuneo. It has a fleshy stem and yellow, orange and red inflorescences, with a scent similar to the rose (for this reason R. rose).

In popular tradition it was used for a wide variety of disorders, from cancer to tuberculosis, from depression to colds and, after the first studies dating back to 1963, many others, to follow, confirmed the numerous properties of the plant. In Siberia it was given to couples before marriage to encourage the birth of healthy children.

Although, before 1963, the Russians carried out studies on the plant, the information was made public only after that year.

When can rhodiola rosea be useful?

When we go through a period of severe stress and physical tiredness, when mental fatigue is felt after many hours of study because we are under scrutiny, when we have been running for so long, when we always feel tired, when we struggle to fall asleep or our sleep is disturbed, when a certain black mood starts to meander …

The active ingredients and what it contains

It contains over 140 compounds , anthocyanins and other polyphenols, phytosterols, tannins, flavonoids and essential oil, but the most important active ingredients for their beneficial effects are rosavidin with salidroside, rosarin and rosin. The chemical structure of rosavidin is similar to that of a glycoside present in the eleuterococcus.

The 11 benefits of Rhodiola rosea:

The active ingredients of rhodiola rosea increase the serotonergic activity (they involve the serotonin called good mood hormone); serotonin intervenes in the sleep-wake cycle as a precursor of melatonin, in appetite control, in mood …

  1. Adaptogenic, ie it increases physical resistance to physical and mental stress, without toxic effects. Suitable for those who need greater physical and mental resistance, for those who are engaged in particularly stressful jobs, both physically and mentally. In sports fatigue, energy levels increase by reducing those of lactic acid. An in vitro and rat study indicates an increase in non-specific resistance and activation of adaptogenic processes ( 1 ).
  2. Increases endorphins circulating in the blood resulting in natural anti-stress.
  3. Increases physical endurance but without the contraindications of anti-fatigue (stimulant) plants that are exciting. Therefore useful in case of nervousness, tachycardiaand in those disorders often associated with  It is suitable for all ages.
  4. Some experiments have shown an increase in serotonin in the blood, a hormone able to act on mood, considering, among the properties of rodhiola, that of natural antidepressant. An article from the Faculty of Polish Pharmacy, on Rhodiola rosea and kirilowii, highlights the plant’s claimed benefits as an adaptogen (adaptogenic activity is primarily evaluated in human clinical trials). It is neuro-protective, antidepressant, anticancer and cardioprotective. He added that the lack of proven interaction with other drugs and the lack of confirmed negative effects during clinical trials encourages further investigation ( 4 )
  5. It can help in cardiovascular diseases by virtue of its ability to increase physical and mental resistance, therefore less stress also for the cardiovascular system. This is what emerged from experiments on animals that need further confirmation.
  6. A Russian study carried out on a sample of students has actually shown improvement in concentration, mental lucidity and memory, without side effects. Another article, published on PubMed and written by the Swedish Institute of Herbal Research, summarized the chemical composition and pharmacological activity of rhodiola rosea. He has isolated about 140 compounds from roots and rhizome, concluding that studies on isolated organs, tissues and cells have shown that Rhodiola has adaptogenic effects, neuro-protective, cardioprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressants (in mild and moderate depression), anxiolytics, reduce cortisol and nootropic levels ( 6 ).
  7. The antioxidant action of flavonoids is supportive and stimulates the immune defenses, decreases free radicalsresulting in anti aging .
  8. Improves hearing function, here too other studies are needed.
  9. It appears to have a preventive effect in Parkinson’s disease, but further supporting studies must be performed.
  10. Associated with regular exercise, it stimulates a greater use of the fats deposited in adipose tissue, so it helps in cases where you want to lose weight. Furthermore, the principles contained in the plant would be able to increase the levels of substances that transmit the satiety signal to the brain, those that are not as fast as us, when we eat too voraciously, for example. Therefore excellent in cases of ” nervous hunger “.
  11. In the case of prolonged physical exercises, the activity of the rhodiola is expressed through greater resistance to fatigue and a shorter recovery time.

In Siberia it is recommended for those with fertility problems and sexual disorders, probably due to its ability to increase resistance to fatigue.


Due to its ability to increase stress resistance and antidepressant properties, it has led to suppose its usefulness in the fight against smoking addiction .

It could be useful in the problems related to the rarefaction of oxygen that occur at high altitude, some studies go in this direction.

In herbal medicine some plants are known that help us in case of physical and mental fatigue: adaptogenic plants.

What is meant by adaptogenic plants?

Adaptogens are those plants that increase the body’s resistance, that is, they improve the ability to adapt to stress of various kinds, both physical and mental: increase of cognitive abilities (memory, learning), improvement of sleep quality and sexual performance.

An adaptogen must demonstrate a non-specific action (ie not act on a specific organ), influence normal bodily functions more than required and be normalizing regardless of the nature of the disease state.

The naturopath advises …

Eleutherococcus, Ginseng, Schisandra, Echinacea, Withania, fucus, but also garlic and turmeric are adaptogenic plants.Last small parenthesis on adaptogenic plants. It is believed that there is a difference between stimulants and adaptogens since the former after an initial increase show a reduction moment, which would not happen with adaptogens.Adaptogens can be nootropic (increase cognitive abilities), immunostimulants, geriatric (help in some problems related to old age), tonics (improve the performance of organs and systems) and metabolism activators.

Contraindications and warnings before use

The studies carried out do not show rhodiola toxicity.

It is normally well tolerated both in the short and long term. It is important to seek prior medical advice, follow the indicated dosage and interpose suspension periods.

It could induce insomnia and nervousness in sensitive individuals.

Do not take during pregnancy, lactation, in the case of heart problems, hypertension and taking medications, medical advice is a must

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