Medically reviewed on August 14, 2017
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.
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 PharmacologyAdaptogenic 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. 13Animal 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. 16Clinical 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. 22Cancer
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. 29Animal 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. 3Clinical data
R. rosea extract administration improved certain parameters in superficial bladder carcinoma in a small (N = 12) study. 35Depression
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. 39Clinical 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 , 43Other 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. 44Cardiac
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
Information regarding safety and effectiveness in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. 9
None well documented.
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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