Rhodiola rosea

Common names: Golden root, rose root, arctic root.

Botanical Family: Crassulaceae. Part used: Root

As part of my series on Nervines or herbs exerting a positive action on the nervous system, I would like to introduce Rhodiola. This is fast becoming one of my favourite herbs due to its unique actions and its ‘super-herb’ abilities.

Russian scientists and Western researchers have accumulated an impressive amount of scientific research to validate its abilities as neuro and cardio-protective, ie protecting brain, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Also it has tonic, immune-modulatory, adaptagenic and antioxidant properties. In other words in enhances physical, emotional and mental performance, particularly in times of severe stress. The saying of adaptagens in herbal medicine is ‘by taking these herbs particularly through stressful periods allows one to handle more crap for longer ‘ and not pay the price as often happens due to adrenal exhaustion.

Rhodiola boosts immune function, increases concentration, memory and energy.

It increases resistance to altitude sickness, assists with depression, anxiety and nervous system disorders. Interestingly, it assists with sexual dysfunction, anaemia, and chronic infections including post-viral syndromes, fibromyalgia and aspects of thyroid dysfunction.

Mode of Action

  1. Rhodiola has a balancing effect on the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal) axis and has been shown to favorably impact cortisol levels and modulate the stress response.
  2. It also modulates the levels and activity of monoamines and opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins.
  3. The potent antioxidant activities of Rhodiola contributes to its adaptogenic effects.
  4. It modulates the immune system and improves physical stamina by increasing the production of ATP and has been shown to improve mental capacity under stressful circumstances.

Clinical Trials

A recent systematic review of randomized clinical trials found Rhodiola to be safe with beneficial effects on physical performance, mental performance and in certain mental health conditions related to stress.

As a tonic, I mix it with Withania, Bacopa, Astragalus, Rhemania, Schisandra and St Johns Wort, Magnolia or Passionflower and Skullcap, to assist clients; immune function, exhaustion, nervous debility, depression, anxiety and mental fatigue.


Chen, T.,S.,Liou, S.,Y., & Chang, Y., L.,(2008),Antioxidant evaluation of three adaptogen extracts, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 36(6), 1209-1217.

Hung, S.,K., Perry, R., & Ernst, E., (2011), The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine, 18(4), 235-244.

Panossian, A.,G., (2013), Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North American, 36(1), 49-64.

Panossian, A.,G.,wikman, G., & Sarris, J.(2010), Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): Traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 481-493.

Ross, S., M., (2014), Rhodiola rosea (SHR-5), part 1 Holistic Nursing Practice, 28(2), 149-154.

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