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Rhodiola Rosea

Medically reviewed on August 13, 2018

Scientific Name(s): Rhodiola rosea L., Sedum rosea , Rhodiola roanensis Britton. Family: Crassulaceae (stonecrops)

Common Name(s): Golden root , roseroot , arctic root , SHR-5 , rhodaxon


Clinical trials supporting therapeutic claims are of limited quality. R. rosea may have beneficial effects in managing mild to moderate depression and mental fatigue. Results from trials evaluating adaptogenic properties and physical endurance are equivocal.


Doses used are commonly 200 to 600 mg/day. For depression, doses of 340 to 680 mg/day of R. rosea extract (as SHR-5) have been evaluated for up to 12 weeks.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and effectiveness in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical trials report few or no adverse reactions. Information is limited.


R. rosea was reported to be safe in acute and subacute toxicity studies.


R. rosea is a perennial plant with a thick rhizome and yellow, fragrant flowers. It grows in sandy soil at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia, including eastern Siberia. The plant reaches a height of 30 to 76 cm. Unique chemical constituents set R. rosea apart from other R. rosea species. 1 , 2


The Greek physician Dioscorides (AD 40-90) first recorded this plant in De Materia Medica , renaming it from Rodia riza to Rhodiola rosea , which refers to the rose-like aroma of the freshly cut root. The Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) documented use of R. rosea as an astringent to treat hernia, leucorrhea, hysteria, and headache. For centuries, the plant has been used in Russia and Scandinavia, where the majority of the research has been published. 2 , 3 , 4 The plant has also been used as a hemostatic in Tibetan folk medicine. 5 Extract of R. rosea is registered in Russia as a medicinal product for human use. 4


Three cinnamyl alcohol vicianosides (rosavin, rosin, rosarin) have been found to be specific to R. rosea . 4 , 6 These 3 substances, along with rosiridin and salidroside, are the 5 marker compounds that must be present to reliably identify R. rosea . 4 , 7 R. rosea extracts used in most clinical trials were standardized to a minimum of 3% rosavins and 0.8% to 1% salidroside, the naturally occurring ratio in the plant. 2 The phenylethanol derivatives salidroside (rhodioloside) and tyrosol have been found in the underground part of the plants. 3 , 8 Flavonoids in R. rosea include rodiolin, rodinin, rodiosin, acetylrodalgin, and tricin, as well as other catechins and proanthocyanidins. 2 , 9 Monoterpenes include rosiridol and rosaridin, and triterpenes include daucosterol and beta-sitosterol. 2 , 5 Terpenes and volatile compounds have been isolated from R. rosea and include the essential oil components of monoterpene hydrocarbons, monoterpene alcohols and straight-chain aliphatic alcohols, n-decanol, geraniol (which is responsible for the rose-like odor), linalool, nonanal, decanal, nerol, and cinnamyl alcohol. 10 Phenolic acids, including chlorogenic, hydroxycinnamic, and gallic acids, are also present. 2 , 9 , 11 , 12

Uses and Pharmacology

Adaptogenic effects

Plant adaptogens, such as those from R. rosea , have been suggested for improving mental and physical performance through stimulatory effects on various physiological systems. 9 , 12 R. rosea 's use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for adaptogenic properties has been examined. 13

Animal data

R. rosea increased the survival of freshwater snail eggs against induced stressors, including heat shock and oxidative and heavy metal stress. 14 Injections of the plant extract administered to rats prevented stress-induced elevations of beta-endorphins, adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol, insulin, thyroxin, and triiodothyronine. 15 Similarly, R. rosea given to rats increased swimming time up to 159%, with improvement continuing throughout the supplementation period. 16

Clinical data

Positive findings were reported in a clinical trial conducted among 56 physicians experiencing fatigue during night duty 17 and among students during stressful examination periods. 18 , 19 Improved sleep patterns and overall quality of sleep have been described with the use of R. rosea . 17 , 18 , 19 , 20

Results of older trials evaluating the effect of R. rosea on physical performance suggest a positive effect; however, most recent trials report no effect on time to exhaustion, 21 , 22 , 23 cardiovascular outcomes, 24 tissue hypoxia, 23 , 24 or rate of adenosine triphosphate turnover for R. rosea extracts. 22


The usefulness of R. rosea as an antioxidant and anticarcinogenic agent has been suggested in earlier in vitro studies by a number of researchers. 11 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 Several antioxidant compounds have been identified in the plant, including p-tyrosol, organic acids, and flavonoids. A mechanism of action has been described that includes induction of apoptosis and necrosis. 29

Animal data

The same researchers describe experiments in animals with induced cancers. R. rosea potentiated antitumor and antimetastatic effects in mice with lung carcinoma, 30 inhibited tumor dissemination, 31 inhibited growth rate of Ehrlich tumor and Pliss lymphosarcoma, 32 and protected tissues from cyclophosphamide toxicity. 33 , 34 Another in vitro experiment showed efficacy against prostate cancer cells in rats. 3

Clinical data

R. rosea extract administration improved certain parameters in superficial bladder carcinoma in a small (N = 12) study. 35


Central nervous system (CNS) activity of R. rosea has been reported. 12 Earlier studies found that low to medium doses of the plant had stimulatory effects while larger doses had sedative effects. 2 In lower doses, R. rosea stimulated norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and nicotinic cholinergic systems in the CNS. R. rosea also appears to increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier to precursors of dopamine and serotonin 36 , 37 , 38 and also appears to improve cerebral circulation. 39

Clinical data

A systematic review of 4 clinical trials of R. rosea in psychiatric disorders found sufficient positive results to warrant further research. The author suggests that a stimulating adaptogenic effect is responsible for antidepressant activity. 40

A double-blind, randomized clinical trial of R. rosea conducted over 6 weeks in 89 patients with mild to moderate depression confirmed potential antidepressive effects compared with placebo, as measured on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale as well as the Beck Depression Inventory. 41 The method of action remains unclear, but is thought to be linked to mood stabilization and energy restoration. Earlier trials of varying methodology have produced conflicting results. 42 , 43

Other effects

A study using the fruit fly Drosophila demonstrated increased longevity with R. rosea administration and suggests the effects are not caused by metabolic rate or male mating success. 44


Clinical trials are lacking. Several older experiments by a small pool of researchers investigated the antiarrhythmic and contractility effects of R. rosea extract in animal models. 45 , 46 , 47 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 51


Clinical doses are commonly 200 to 600 mg/day. 2 Doses of 340 to 680 mg/day of R. rosea extract (as SHR-5) in depression have been evaluated for up to 12 weeks. 41 , 52


Information regarding safety and effectiveness in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. 9


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical trials report few or no adverse reactions. 17 , 41 , 52 Information is limited.


R. rosea has a very low level of toxicity in rats. The LD 50 was calculated to be approximately 3.4 g/kg (equal to 235 g in a 70 kg person). 53 R. rosea was reported to be safe in acute and subacute toxicity studies. 13


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18. Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Madrikov VB, Mironova IA, Neumoin VV. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine . 2000;7(2):85-89.
19. Spasov AA, Mandrikov VB, Mironova IA. The effect of the preparation rodakson on the psychophysiological and physical adaptation of students to an academic load [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 2000;63(1):76-78.
20. Ha Z, Zhu Y, Zhang X, et al. The effect of Rhodiola and acetazolamide on the sleep architecture and blood oxygen saturation in men living at high altitude [in Chinese]. Zhonghua Jie He He Hu Xi Za Zhi . 2002;25(9):527-530.
21. Earnest CP, Morss GM, Wyatt FB, et al. Effects of a commercial herbal-based formula on exercise performance in cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc . 2004;36(3):504-509.
22. Walker TB, Altobelli SA, Caprihan A, Robergs RA. Failure of Rhodiola rosea to alter skeletal muscle phosphate kinetics in trained men. Metabolism . 2007;56(8):1111-1117.
23. Colson SN, Wyatt FB, Johnston DL, et al. Cordyceps sinensis- and Rhodiola rosea -based supplementation in male cyclists and its effect on muscle tissue oxygen saturation. J Strength Cond Res . 2005;19(2):358-363.
24. Wing SL, Askew EW, Luetkemeier MJ, et al. Lack of effect of Rhodiola or oxygenated water supplementation on hypoxemia and oxidative stress. Wilderness Environ Med . 2003;14(1):9-16.
25. Udintsev SN, Shakhov VP, Borovskoi IG, Ibragimova SG. The effect of low concentrations of adaptogen solutions on the functional activity of murine bone marrow cells in vitro [in Russian]. Biofizika . 1991;36(1):105-108.
26. Udintsev SN, Shakhov VP. The role of humoral factors of regenerating liver in the development of experimental tumors and the effect of Rhodiola rosea extract on this process. Neoplasma . 1991;38(3):323-331.
27. Udintsev SN, Shakhov VP, Borovskoi IG. Mechanism of differential effect of low dose adaptogens on the functional activity of normal and transformed cellular elements in vitro [in Russian]. Biofizika . 1991;36(4):624-627.
28. Salikhova RA, Aleksandrova IV, Mazurik VK, Mikhailov VF, Ushenkova LN, Poroshenko GG. Effect of Rhodiola rosea on the yield of mutation alterations and DNA repair in bone marrow cells [in Russian]. Patol Fiziol Eksp Ter . 1997;Oct-Dec(4):22-24.
29. Majewska A, Hoser G, Grazyna H, et al. Antiproliferative and antimitotic effect, S phase accumulation and induction of apoptosis and necrosis after treatment of extract from Rhodiola rosea rhizomes on HL-60 cells. J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;103(1):43-52.
30. Razina TG, Zueva EP, Amosova EN, Krylova SG. Medicinal plant preparations used as adjuvant therapeutics in experimental oncology [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 2000;63(5):59-61.
31. Udintsev SN, Krylova SG, Fomina TI. The enhancement of the efficacy of adriamycin by using hepatoprotectors of plant origin in metastases of Ehrlich's adenocarcinoma to the liver in mice [in Russian]. Vopr Onkol . 1992;38(10):1217-1222.
32. Udintsev S, Shakhov VP. Decrease in the growth rate of Ehrlich's tumor and Pliss' lymphosarcoma with partial hepatectomy [in Russian]. Vopr Onkol . 1989;35(9):1072-1075.
33. Udintsev SN, Schakhov VP. Decrease of cyclophosphamide hematotoxicity by Rhodiola rosea root extract in mice with Ehrlich and Lewis transplantable tumors. Eur J Cancer . 1991;27(9):1182.
34. Udintsev SN, Shakhov VP. Changes in clonogenic properties of bone marrow and transplantable mice tumor cells during combined use of cyclophosphane and biological response modifiers of adaptogenic origin [in Russian]. Eksp Onkol . 1990;12(6):55-56.
35. Bocharova OA, Matveev BP, Baryshnikov AIu, Figurin KM, Serebriakova RV, Bodrova NB. The effect of a Rhodiola rosea extract on the incidence of recurrences of a superficial bladder cancer (experimental clinical research) [in Russian]. Urol Nefrol . 1995;Mar-Apr(2):46-47.
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40. Sarris J. Herbal medicines in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a systematic review. Phytother Res . 2007;21(8):703-716.
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44. Jafari M, Felgner JS, Bussel II, et al. Rhodiola: a promising anti-aging Chinese herb. Rejuvenation Res . 2007;10(4):587-602.
45. Lishmanov IuB, Maslova LV, Maslov LN, Dan'shina EN. The anti-arrhythmia effect of Rhodiola rosea and its possible mechanism [in Russian]. Biull Eksp Biol Med . 1993;116(8):175-176.
46. Maimeskulova LA, Maslov LN, Lishmanov IuB, Krasnov EA. The participation of the mu-, delta- and kappa-opioid receptors in the realization of the anti-arrhythmia effect of Rhodiola rosea [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 1997;60(1):38-39.
47. Maslov LN, Lishmanov IuB, Naumova AV, Lasukova TV. Do endogenous ligands of peripheral mu- and delta-opiate receptors mediate anti-arrhythmic and cardioprotective effects of Rhodiola rosea extract [in Russian]? Biull Eksp Biol Med . 1997;124(8):151-153.
48. Lishmanov IuB, Naumova AV, Afanas'ev SA, Maslov LN. Contribution of the opioid system to realization of inotropic effects of Rhodiola rosea extracts in ischemic and reperfusion heart damage in vitro [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 1997;60(3):34-36.
49. Maimeskulova LA, Maslov LN. The anti-arrhythmia action of an extract of Rhodiola rosea and of n-tyrosol in models of experimental arrhythmias [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 1998;61(2):37-40.
50. Maslov LN, Lishmanov IuB, Maimeskulova LA, Krasnov EA. Mechanism of the anti-arrhythmic effect of Rhodiola rosea extract [in Russian]. Biull Eksp Biol Med . 1998;125(4):424-426.
51. Afanas'ev SA, Alekseeva ED, Bardamova IB, Maslova LV, Lishmanov IuB. Cardiac contractile function following acute cooling of the body and the adaptogenic correction of its disorders [in Russian]. Biull Eksp Biol Med . 1993;116(11):480-483.
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53. Kurkin VA, Zapesochinaya GG. Chemical composition and pharmacological characteristics of Rhodiola rosea [review]. J Med Plants . 1985;1231-1445.

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