Although the properties of Rhodiola root have always been known to the local population of the Arctic and mountainous areas in which it grows, its leap to fame as a plant against stress is relatively recent.
Let's learn a little more about the plant popularly known as "Golden root" or "Arctic root" and its health benefits, which come mainly from its ability to improve performance in situations of stress, tiredness and fatigue.
The full botanical name is Rhodiola rosea because, when cut or broken, it oozes a rose-like aroma. Rhodiola plant is between 20 and 30 centimeter tall with green-blue leaves. It blooms in summer, with male yellow or orange flowers and female flowers of dark garnet tones.
This plant does not have an easy and comfortable life, as it lives in cold climates and proliferates in remote places with difficult access, such as in the rocky crevices of the mountains, on steep cliffs or in the icy tundra.
Its favorite locations are the surroundings of the Arctic, such as Greenland, Iceland or the Scandinavian countries. It is also found in the north of the United Kingdom and in high mountain ranges such as the Himalayas, Rocky mountains, Carpathians, Apennines, the Andes or the Pyrenees.
As you can see, Rhodiola inhabits places where living must be very stressful... but it adapts. This adaptability transmits through its active constituents, making it what is considered an adaptogenic plant.
Adaptogenic plants are those that improve the body's ability to adapt to prolonged stressors. They alleviate fatigue and asthenia due to excessive daily workload and reduce stress caused by the speed of modern life.
Although these plants were already known in traditional Chinese medicine as "superior tonics", the first person to coin the term "adaptogen" was a Russian a pharmacist Nicolav Nazarev. He worked for the former Soviet Union with the mission of finding substances to increase physical and mental resistance to the stress suffered by fighters in World War II and, subsequently, that of Soviet astronauts and athletes during the tense years of the Cold War.
Nazarev investigated the adaptogenic properties of a plant called Schisandra chinensis,and opened a new classification of metabolic regulators which would later include Eleuterococo, Ginseng and our flagship plant today: Rhodiola.
Rhodiola's ability to improve physical and intellectual capacity was already known to the Eskimo peoples of North America, who consumed Rhodiola rhizomes as food. It appears that the Vikings also took it to increase their strength and endurance in the tough battles, and later in Norway Rhodiola was used to combat alopecia, pneumonia and also as a diuretic.
In other areas where Rhodiola grows, Rhodiola has traditionally been used to fight depression, decrease tiredness and treat male impotence and infertility in women. These are all reasons that generate stress and stress, in turn, it causes depression, fatigue and sexual dysfunctions. Rhodiola can help you get out of this anxiety loop.
As we have seen, the benefits of Rhodiola have been known for centuries. It is now known that its adaptogen properties are mainly due to the active substances present in the rhizomes of Rhodiola and their effect on neural neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, as well as on certain endorphins.
Because of this, Rhodiola rosea improves physical and intellectual performance and strengthens the ability to manage anxiety in stressful situations. The antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of Rhodiola and its anti-inflammatory power, immunomodulator and cellular protective effects have also been demonstrated.
Considering its properties to adapt to seasons of stress and overwork, it is easy to understand why Rhodiola is becoming a popular therapeutic alternative in a society where anxiety, depression and apathy are so established.
Daily lives of many people consist of long working hours arriving home exhausted without time or energy to pay attention to their partner, family or themselves. This exhaustive routine causes great deal of dissatisfaction and permanent fatigue. In many cases leisure moments, if any, are not dedicated to something productive that generates joy and fullness, but to evasive behaviors that only worsen internal unease.
Taking Rhodiola gives us more strength to cope with daily stress, improve our fatigue resistance and not fall into apathy. It can help us to modify little by little, and by putting aside things in our lives which generate anxiety and lack of energy, because we will have a more balanced mental state to face the changes that we want to make.
Because problems caused by stress and anxiety are so widespread, Rhodiola is indicated in many related situations or arising from this state of constant nervousness. Let's look at some examples:
Improve performance at work: If you have excessive work load, Rhodiola helps lower the feeling of stress, improve concentration and combat mental fatigue. This is also true for students under high pressure during exams. Studies in students with good health concluded that, after four weeks of taking Rhodiola, they made better grades than those in the placebo group. Of course... they also had to study for it!
Calm the symptoms of depression: Rhodiola is proven to positively influence this disabling pathology according to studies which show that, after 6 weeks taking Rhodiola, it improve symptoms of mild or moderate depression such as insomnia and emotional instability. Studies have also been conducted comparing the benefits of Rhodiola with antidepressants such as sertraline, concluding that the effects of the plant are milder, but effective and with fewer adverse effects than drug treatment.
Increase libido: an accelerated lifestyle with no time to relax can lead to a lack of sexual appetite that leads to internal and partner conflicts. Before this situation is definitively established due to stress, Rhodiola can help recover that erotic energy which has been missing.
Improve sleep disorders: If your problem is that, due to stress, you sleep poorly, have a hard time sleeping and feel drowsy throughout the day, Rhodiola can also help in recovering a healthy sleep dynamic.
Fight aging: No one can escape getting older and stress is one of the causes of premature aging in modern societies. But there are lifestyles and natural substances that slow down the negative effects of aging. Clinical studies show that Rhodiola protects against diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and cerebrovascular and heart pathologies.
In short, Rhodiola is a natural therapeutic alternative very suitable in our current times where immediacy, difficulties in reconciling personal and professional life, multitasking or labor competitiveness are at their peak, leaving behind a trail of anxiety, apathy and lack of motivation.
Of course, it's not a magical solution that can change your whole life, but it will give you a more balanced mental state making it easier for you to carry out your daily tasks without exhaustion or make deeper transformation with professional support in case stress is not a transient symptom, but an alarm signal to change the direction you were taking until now.
By Lucía Figueroa
1. Ewa Jówko, Jerzy Sadowski, Barbara Długołęcka, Dariusz Gierczuk , Benedykt Opaszowski, Igor Cieśliński (2018) Effects of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on mental performance, physical capacity, and oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men, J Sport Health Sci. 7(4):473-480, DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30450257/
2. Gou-Ping Ma, Qun Zheng, Meng-Bei Xu , Xiao-Li Zhou, Lin Lu, Zuo-Xiao Li, Guo-Qing Zheng, (2018) Rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms, Front Pharmacol. 4;9:1415, DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30564123/
3. Jun J Mao, Sharon X Xie, Jarcy Zee, Irene Soeller, Qing S Li, Kenneth Rockwell, Jay D Amsterdam (2015) Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial, Phytomedicine. 15;22(3):394-9, DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25837277/
4. Wei Zhuang, Lifeng Yue, Xiaofang Dang, Fei Chen, Yuewen Gong, Xiaolan Lin, Yumin Luo (2019) Rosenroot ( Rhodiola): Potential Applications in Aging-related Diseases, Aging Dis. 1;10(1):134-146, DOI: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30705774/