RHODIOLA ROSEA or golden root (orpin rose in French) is found in the cold regions of the Northern Hemiphere, in sub-arctic areas or at higher altitudes in countries with a more temperate climate.
It is thus present in the Alps and the Pyrenees( European mountains).
This medicinal plant has been traditionnally used in Asia, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries to increase physical and mental stamina and prevent disease.
Rhodiola rosea is a "succulent" plant, which grows in tuft from an underground, rhizomatous, blackish and branched organ sometimes present above the ground.
The stems are up to 30 cm long, the thick, water-soaked leaves are very green (sometimes stained with red) and generally alternate and closely spaced. The shape of the leaves is variable but they are most often oval or lanceolate.
Rhodiola rosea is male or female, the petals of the male flowers are yellowish, those of the female flowers often reddish. The 8 stamens are prominent.
The RHIZOME when cut, exhales a smell of rose, it is the medicinal part.
Spontaneously Rhodiola rosea grows in places that are not conducive to the development of competing plants: rocks, cliffs (including at the seaside), stony stabilized ground, mountain moraines sometimes up to 3000 m in Europe.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
Rhodiola rosea contains antioxidant substances that trap free radicals and can inhibit or reduce certain inflammatory reactions:
- Phenolic acids which are present in many plants: caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid,
- tannins (gallic acid),
Among the many substances in Rhodiola rosea the most interesting (adaptogenic and protective substances) , are phenylpropane and phenylethanol derivatives.
These are rhodioloside, tyrosol, rosavine, rosarine, rosin and rhodioline.
ROSAVINE is most often used to standardize Rhodiola rosea extracts.
Rhodiola rosea contains a small amount of essential oil :
The main ingredients are geraniol (rose-scented), myrtenol and cinnamic alcohol.
RHODIOLA ROSEA AN ADAPTOGENIC MEDICINAL PLANT
Rhodiola rosea, like ginseng and eleutherococcus, can increase the body's resistance to physical stress (cold, effort, strain), strengthen mental focus, attention, and facilitate recover after a physical test (endurance) or intellectual test (examination, confrontation).
By definition the action of an ADAPTOGENIC PLANT is not specific, it helps the body to cope with any stress situation.
This somewhat vague definition is not accepted by everyone and questioned by some physiologists.
Under stress the body reacts by releasing adrenal hormones (first adrenaline and norepinephrine and then cortisol), this natural reaction is effective but has negative physiological side effects (eg loss of sleep, irritability, difficulty to concentrate , lowering of immune defense) that adaptogenic plants are trying to mitigate.
Here is a quote, a classic summary of the effects of an adaptogenic substance:
"The different effects of adaptogenic plants are summarized in:
- a decrease in the recovery time after an effort,
- an increase in motor activity,
- an increase in psychic performances,
- an emotional adaptation,
- resistance to infections,
- a nonspecific immunostimulatory effect,
- greater resistance to cold,
- greater resistance to effort,
- greater resistance to the oxygen requirement,
Rhodiola rosea is not a medicinal plant known in France, it is not part of the French pharmacopoeia, but it has been studied in Russia, Eastern Europe, Switzerland, Scandinavia and other countries in Asia (China and Japan).
Rhodiola rosea is included in the Russian pharmacopoeia since 1969.
In animals tests, an improvement in performance in exercise , an increase in endurances is observed.
In humans, extracts of Rhodiola rosea reduce physical and intellectual fatigue, improve attention skills and reduce the side effects of stress (difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, irritability, high blood pressure).
In depressed people, these extracts fight the negative effects of certain anti-depressant drugs (especially those of tricyclic antidepressants).
Some observations show an improvement of the erection in the man and a resumption of the genital activity in certain women suffering from amenorrhea, a probable increase of the immune defense notably in case of anti-cancer treatment ( chemotherapy, radiotherapy).
RHODIOLA ROSEA A TRADITIONAL MEDICINAL PLANT
Rhodiola rosea has been used for a very long time in countries where it grows naturally (Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia), and was introduced very early in the Chinese pharmacopoeia.
This plant, uncommon, was mainly used to strengthen the physical and psychological resistance of warriors (Viking), their stamina or to prevent diseases.
Some Chinese emperors used it and brought it from Siberia.
More recently, the "natural doping" effects of the Rhodiola rosea suggest that athletes have probably used it.
INDICATIONS OF RHODIOLA ROSEA
Main indications of this plant:
- Preparation to effort (endurance), preparation to exams,
- limitation of the effects of physical and psychological stress,
- asthenia, fatigue episode and chronic fatigue,
- memory loss, moderate depression episode with anxiety,
- associated treatment in Parkinson's disease.
EXAMPLES OF DOSAGE: the concentration of rhodiola rosea extracts being variable, here are some examples of recommended daily doses following clinical trials, 300 to 600 mg of standardized Rhodiola extract at 1% rosavine or 180-300 mg at 2%. rosavine or 100-170 mg to 3.6% rosavin.
It is better to :
- to divide this dose into two doses (morning and noon)
- to avoid absorbing it at the end of the day (risk of insomnia),
- to limit the treatment to 15 days,
- and not to increase the dosage (risk of irritation, risk of inefficient treatment).
- prevention of infectious diseases (especially respiratory viruses),
- strengthening immunity weakened by an anti-cancer treatment (chemo or radiotherapy),
- Erectile dysfunction, dysmenorrhea or amnenorrhea (menstrual disorders), procreation aids.
- After an infectious disease (virus, parasite)
OTHER RHODIOLA ROSEA EXTRACTS
It is perfectly possible to directly use the Rhodiola rosea root rather than extracts.
- In prolonged infusion: 10 to 15 g of fragmented dry root (or two to three times more fresh root) of Rhodiola rosea in 1/2 liter of very hot water, infusion for 15 minutes, to drink during the day.
- In standard alcoholic tincture (1/10), if possible tincture of fresh root.
Indications of dosage according to the Russian clinicians: 10 drops 2 to 3 times a day during a fortnight.
In case of chronic fatigue type "psychasthenia" gradually increase the dose in two months up to 40 drops 2 to 3 times per day and the slowly decrease it.
Interruption of treatment in case of neurotonic reaction, excitement, nervousness, insomnia.
- Some populations of cold regions consume the leaves and stems of fresh Rhodiola rosea as well as those of purslane and traditionally make a somewhat fermented preparation of Rhodiola rosea root.
CULTIVATION OF RHODIOLA ROSEA
Because of the growing demand for this relatively rare "adaptogenic" plant and its very slow development, natural stocks are no longer sufficient and it seems urgent to launch cultivation programs adapted to this very particular plant.
It is a plant very resistant to the cold and a little indifferent to the type of soil (poor or rich), but which does not support soils too wet or high temperatures (above 15-20 C).
To obtain rhizomes rich in active substances it is necessary to cultivate Rhodiola rosea in regions with cold winter or altitude and to be patient because it takes at least 5 to 6 years to obtain a plant whose rhizome is exploitable.
There are experimental open field crops in some Eastern European countries (especially in Poland).
Swiss agronomists have a breeding program of their richest native strains in active substances.
Several techniques seem possible:
- Cutting of small rhizome fragments that develop roots in 2 to 3 weeks then transplanting them in open ground the following spring.
- Cutting of stem fragments (before flowering).
- Reproduction from seeds.
Cutting allows the propagation of clones which have the best concentration of interesting substances.
Rhodiola rosea is also a decorative plant.
Toxicity tests show that Rhodiola rosea is possibly toxic but that the recommended dosage is very far from the dangerous threshold.
Rhodiola rosea is nevertheless contrindicated in naturally "upset" people and especially in cases of bipolar disorder (risk of aggravation of maniac episodes).
A PLANT OF COLD REGIONS TO FIGHT FATIGUE AND STRESS
GOLDEN ROOT, Rhodiola rosea originates from the cold regions of the northern hemisphere, it contains substances that allow the body to better withstand physical effort and improve mental performance.
It is an adaptogenic plant (like ginseng), it is useful in case of physical and mental fatigue, to counter the effects of physical and mental stress, to increase endurance. Rhodiola rosea reinforces immunity and the natural defenses of the body.
Copyright 2019 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel