Laboratory and animal studies show that the herb may inhibit cancer cells, protect healthy cells from toxins, and correct enzyme imbalances associated with diabetes. In addition, four trials with human volunteers [using rosea extract SRH-5] show that rhodiola extracts can boost mental performance, reduce fatigue, and ease depression. . . .
In animals, the herb lowers production of the stress hormone cortisol. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to eliminate from the body the oxygen radicals that damage cells. And in muscles, it increases production of adenosine triphosphate, the molecule that serves as cellular gasoline.
Trials in people, while not up to Western standards, hinted that rhodiola could alleviate depression, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, and chronic listlessness.
Other, higher quality trials suggested that the herb could boost athletic performance. . . .
[T]hree compounds found only in the rosea type of Rhodiola—there are at least 200 related species—were responsible for much of the plant's activity. They dubbed these compounds rosavins, and in 1989 the Soviet government declared that all rhodiola extracts must contain at least 3 percent rosavins. Dietary supplement makers throughout the world still hew to this standard. [There may be up to a dozen active ingredients.]
Soviet . . . research culminated with ADAPT, a mixture of extracts from R. rosea, a species of ginseng, and a berry called Schizandra chinensis.
An effort to start small scale commercial production in Alberta is underway.
My source, Science News, relied on the following sources:
Abidov, M., et al. 2004. Extract of Rhodiola rosea radix reduces the level of c-reactive protein and creatinine kinase in the blood. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine 138(July):63-64. Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:BEBM.0000046940.45382.53.
Abidov, M., et al. 2003. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola Rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on Atp content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine 136(December):585-587. Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:BEBM.0000020211.24779.15.
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Brown, R.P. and P.L. Gerbarg. 2004. The Rhodiola revolution. New York: Rodale.
Brown, R.P., P.L. Gerbarg, and Z. Ramazanov. 2002. Rhodiola rosea: A phytomedicinal overview. Herbalgram 56:40-52.
Darbinyan, V. . . . G. Wikman, et al. 2000. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue—a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract Shr-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine 7(May):365-371. Abstract.
Galambosi, B. 2006.Demand and availability of Rhodiola rosea raw material. In Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. L.E. Craker, R.J. Bogers, and D. Lange, eds. Netherlands: Springer.
Kelly, G.S. 2001. Rhodiola rosea: A possible plant adaptogen. Alternative Medicine Review 6(June):293-302. Available at http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/6/3/293.pdf.
Petkov, V.D., et al. 1986. Effects of alcohol aqueous extract from Rhodiola rosea L. roots on ;earning and memory. ACTA Physiologica et Pharmacologica Bulgarica 12(January):3-16.
Shevtsov, V.A. . . . and G. Wikman. 2003. A randomized trial of two different doses of a Shr-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine 10(March):95-105. Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1078/094471103321659780.
Spasov, A.A., G.K. Wikman, et al. 2000. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea Shr-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine 7(April):85-89. Abstract.