Rhodiola Rosea

A Phytomedicinal Overview


Herbalgram. 56:40-62, 2002. by
Richard P. Brown, M.D.,
Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D.,
and Zakir Ramazanov, Ph.D., D.S.

Rhodiola rosea L., also known as “golden root” or “roseroot” belongs to the plant family Crassulaceae.1 R. rosea grows primarily in dry sandy ground at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia.2 The plant reaches a height of 12 to 30 inches (70cm) and produces yellow blossoms. It is a perennial with a thick rhizome, fragrant when cut. The Greek physician, Dioscorides, first recorded medicinal applications of rodia riza in 77 C.E. in De Materia Medica.3 Linnaeus renamed it Rhodiola rosea, referring to the rose-like attar (fragrance) of the fresh cut rootstock.4

For centuries, R. rosea has been used in the traditional medicine of Russia, Scandinavia, and other countries. Between 1725 and 1960, various medicinal applications of R. rosea appeared in the scientific literature of Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Iceland.2,4-12 Since 1960, more than 180 pharmacological, phytochemical, and clinical studies have been published. Although R. rosea has been extensively studied as an adaptogen with various health-promoting effects, its properties remain largely unknown in the West. In part this may be due to the fact that the bulk of research has been published in Slavic and Scandinavian languages.

This review provides an introduction to some of the traditional uses of R. rosea, its phytochemistry, scientific studies exploring its diverse physiological effects, and its current and future medical applications.

Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry
New York Medical College
Phone: 914-715-1580

Jesse Lawler interviews Dr. Patricia Gerbarg about Rhodiola rosea on SmartDrugSmarts.com

Dr. Gerbarg introduces us to herbal supplement Rhodiola rosea, which is used to increase stamina, decrease mental fatigue, combat stress, and ease the negative effects of living in high altitude societies. She will also explain how best to prepare yourself for an encounter with a fire-breathing bull!

Episode Highlights

  • Introduction to Dr. Patricia Gerbarg

  • What's the difference between "true" adaptogens and herbs with adaptogenic properties?

  • How liquid chromatography can help you identify active components of different drugs

  • The history of Rhodiola rosea or "the golden root" and its use in high altitude societies

  • Rhodiola rosea in Greek Mythology

  • ATP, cellular repair systems, and aging

  • Anti-aging and stress studies on Rhodiola rosea and other adaptogens

  • Adaptogens in space

  • How Rhodiola rosea research was brought to the United States from Russia

  • Dr. Gerbarg and Dr. Brown's first English-language review of Rhodiola rosea, and how research has progressed since then

  • Limitations and risks of Rhodiola rosea and differences in reactions to dosages

  • Rhodiola rosea in sports drinks and a question about L-theanine

  • Half-life range and best times of day to supplement

  • Dr. Gerbarg's personal usage of Rhodia rosea, her experience with Lyme disease, and her book, The Rhodiola Revolution

  • Rhodiola rosea and its role in fertility and cancer treatment