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Rhodiola Rosea



Rhodiola rosea is proving to be a more powerful anti-stress, positive-mood and memory-enhancing herbal extract formula than even two other well-known herbal superstars-St John’s wort and Panax ginseng.

Rhodiola rosea is also known as golden root, Arctic root, rose root and rose wort. It grows near the Arctic circle in North America, Scandinavia and Russia. The dry root stock, which is used for the herbal product, has the distinct odor of roses, thus the plant’s main name.

The Rhodiola rosea extract has so many beneficial uses for the human body it is known as an adaptogen. This area the term coined by Soviet scientists decades ago when they were studying the fabled benefits of ginseng and rhodiola. The extract seemed to adapt itself to whatever needs the individual body had at the time.

Healthy Recovery

Our bodies are in a constant state of activity-even when we are asleep, the trillions of cells are busy renewing what we have worn out earlier in the day. The adaptation of the body systems to the constant changes and stresses it meets every hour of every day is the key to optimal health and life. Ingredients in the adaptogen Rhodiola rosea have been found to optimize the body’s recovery mechanisms. For example, one of its many health-giving benefits is as a nutrient to help those who go through rigorous exercise or competition to recover more quickly.

While most of us are not athletes, nor persons who exercise strenuously, we may benefit a great deal from the use of this extract. Just because we aren’t lifting weights or running for miles doesn’t mean our bodies haven’t been stressed to the maximum.

The ingredients in the properly-prepared extract from the correct plant source have been shown to increase the levels of enzymes, RNA and proteins important to muscle recovery following exhaustive exercise. To get the true picture of the benefits of this herb, let’s turn to the classic understanding of the human reactions to stress as delineated by Dr Hans Selye decades ago.

Dr Selye showed that there are three phases of stress progression. These are the alarm phase, the resistance stage and the exhaustion phase.

Many researchers are convinced that 80 percent of all illness has its roots in the exhaustion phase of the stress reaction. Most important is that the stressor does not need to be physical.

Now scientists believe the most common symptoms of stress resistance failure are chronic fatigue and depression. Rhodiola rosea extract has proved itself to be a beneficial nutrient in supporting prolongation of the "resistance" phase.

In one clinical trial, 128 individuals ranging in age from 17 to 55 years were studied. Following the use of 100 milligrams of Rhodiola rosea twice a day for periods from one to four months, a substantial decrease, even complete disappearances of the clinical manifestations of depression, were noted in 65 percent of the study group. The people became more active and motivated as the symptoms of afternoon sleepiness and general weakness vanished.

Versatile Player

The heart-protective effects of this herbal extract have been shown in several studies. In one study, myocardial catecholamines [substances] and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (involved in the transfer of energy) levels were measured. Rhodiola rosea was found to prevent both stress-induced catecholamine release and higher cyclic AMP levels in the heart tissue.

Moreover, researchers found the herb prevented lower adrenal catecholamines during stress. This suggests that the anti-stressor and heart protective effects of Rhodiola rosea were associated with limited adrenaline effects on the heart (the study was published in Russia in 1994).

One of the most important mechanisms researchers have discovered about Rhodiola rosea is its ability to shake up stored adipose fat tissue and help the body use it and remove it.

Stored fat is mobilized by the activity of a special type of adipose lipase enzyme which is different from the pancreatic lipase that breaks down fats during digestion. Researchers discovered that this particular lipase is "hormone-sensitive and does not work on the fat stores unless it is stimulated by specifically activated molecules. Rhodiola rosea has this important property.

Clinical studies have shown that Rhodiola rosea extract, taken as a supplement, increased the release of fatty acids during exercise. The key ingredient in the fatty acid "shake out" was the molecule known as rosavin.

Dr Ramazanov explained that the most important compounds in this plant extract, clinically proven to be active and beneficial in humans, are rosavin, rosin, rosarin and salidroside.

"True Rhodiola rosea contains these four active ingredients, while adulterated or counterfeit versions contain only salidroside," he said. "Moreover, out of all the other species of rhodiola genus, only Rhodiola rosea was clinically proven to be pharmacologically effective in stress and weight management."



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD