July 19, 2017
Rhodiola: More than an Adaptogen

Rhodiola rosea, (aka golden root, rose root, arctic root), is a plant indigenous to Siberia, where it thrives in high altitudes and dry arctic climates. The primary medicinal compounds of Rhodiola are derived from the root of the plant.

In Russia, Scandinavia and much of Europe, Rhodiola has been traditionally recognized for its adaptogenic properties, which has lead to utilization by many functional medicine practitioners today. Adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to a wide range of chemical, biological and physical stressors, and can be particularly helpful in addressing various stages of HPA axis dysfunction. However, the benefits of Rhodiola appear to be broader than just aiding in appropriate cortisol release.

Increasing evidence supports the role of Rhodiola, at standard concentrations of 3% rosavin, in supporting neurotransmitter secretion and nervous system function. Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that Rhodiola stimulates neurotransmitter activity in the central nervous system, and it may positively influence serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and acetylcholine availability in neuropathways that regulate mood. Further laboratory analysis has shown that Rhodiola also enhances permeability of the blood-brain barrier to specific neurotransmitter precursors of serotonin and dopamine.

Starting in the brain stem, Rhodiola promotes release of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine in ascending pathways that activate the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. Consequently, the cognitive (thinking, analyzing, evaluating, calculating, and planning) functions of the cerebral cortex and the attention, memory, and learning functions of the prefrontal and frontal cortex are enhanced.

As an antioxidant, Rhodiola may help protect the nervous system from oxidative damage by free radicals. Stress interferes with memory functions and, over time, causes deterioration in memory systems. In addition to enhancing cognitive functions, learning, and memory by stimulating norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine neuronal systems, Rhodiola may exert positive effects on memory and cognition by improving resistance to physical and emotional stress. Thus, the dual action of cognitive stimulation and emotional calming creates benefits for both immediate cognitive and memory performance and for the long-term preservation of brain functions.

Rhodiola is likely safe for most patients, as it has a very low level of toxicity. In rat toxicity studies, the LD50 (lethal dose at which 50 percent of animals die) was calculated to be 28.6 ml/kg, approximately 3,360 mg/kg. The equivalent dosage in a 70 kg man would be about 235 gm or 235,000 mg. Since the usual clinical doses are 200-600 mg/day, there is a huge margin of safety.

When testing identifies patients with adrenal and/or neurotransmitter imbalance, Rhodiola may be a consideration to help restore balance and address reported symptoms. Interested in learning more about imbalances and treatment options? For more information on Rhodiola, as well as fundamentals to treat endocrine and neurotransmitter imbalances, join us on August 5th for our Core Training in Portland, OR. Visit www.labrix.com/core for more information.

  • Borovskaya TG, Fomina TI, Iaremenko KV. A decrease in the toxic action of rubomycin on the small intestine of mice with a transplantable tumor through the use of a Rhodiola extract. Antiobiot Khimioter 1988;33(8):615-7.
  • Brown RP, Gerbarg PL, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview. HerbalGram. 2002;56:40-52.
  • Durany N, Munch G, Michel T, Riederer P. Investigations on oxidative stress and therapeutical implications in dementia. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 1999;249 Suppl 3:68-73.
  • Marina TF, Alekseeva LP. Effect of Rhodiola rosea extract on electroencephalograms in rabbit. In. Saratikov AS, editor. Stimulants of the Central Nervous System. Tomsk, Russia: Tomsk State University Press; 1968.
  • Saratikov AS, Krasnov EA. Rhodiola rosea is a valuable medicinal plant (Golden Root). Tomsk, Russia: Tomsk State University Press; 1987.

All information given about health conditions, treatment, products, and dosages are for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.


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