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Rhodiola rosea (commonly golden root, rose root, roseroot, western roseroot, Aaron's rod, arctic root, king's crown, lignum rhodium, orpin rose) is a perennial flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae. It grows in cold regions of the world, including much of the Arctic, the mountains of Central Asia, scattered in eastern North America from Baffin Island to the mountains of North Carolina, and mountainous parts of Europe, such as the Alps, Pyrenees, and Carpathian Mountains, Scandinavia, Iceland, Great Britain and Ireland. It grows on sea cliffs and on mountains at altitudes up to 2280 meters.[where?] Several shoots grow from the same thick root. Shoots may reach 5 to 35 cm in height. R. rosea is dioecious – having separate female and male plants.
Description and distribution
Rhodiola rosea is from 5 to 40 centimetres (2.0 to 15.7 in) tall, fleshy, and has several stems growing from a short, scaly rootstock. Flowers have 4 sepals and 4 petals, yellow to greenish yellow in color sometines tipped with red, about 1 to 3.5 millimetres (0.039 to 0.138 in) long, and blooming in summer. Western North American plants formerly included in R. rosea are now treated as Rhodiola integrifolia and Rhodiola rhodantha.
Some studies have found support for it having antidepressant effects. It is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cure, treat, or prevent any disease. In fact, the FDA has forcibly removed some products containing R. rosea from the market due to disputed claims that it treats cancer, anxiety, influenza, the common cold, bacterial infections, and migraines.
In Russia and Scandinavia, R. rosea has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life. Such effects were provided with evidence in laboratory models of stress using the nematode C. elegans, and in rats in which Rhodiola effectively prevented stress-induced changes in appetite, physical activity, weight gain and the estrus cycle.
The aerial portion is consumed as food in some parts of the world, sometimes added to salads.
Phytochemicals and health effects
Research regarding R. rosea efficacy is contradictory. While some evidence suggests that the herb may be helpful for enhancing physical performance and alleviating mental fatigue, methodological flaws limit accurate assessment of efficacy. A rigorously-designed well reported RCT that minimizes bias is needed to determine true efficacy of R. rosea for fatigue.
Scientists have identified about 140 chemical compounds in the subterranean portions of R. rosea. Rhodiola roots contain phenols, rosavin, rosin, rosarin, organic acids, terpenoids, phenolcarbonic acids and their derivatives, flavonoids, anthraquinones, and alkaloids.
The chemical composition of the essential oil from R. rosea root growing in different countries varies. For example, rosavin, rosarin and rosin at their highest concentration according to many tests can be found only in R. rosea of Russian origin; the main component of the essential oil from Rhodiola growing in Bulgaria are geraniol and myrtenol; in China the main components are geraniol and 1-octanol; and in India the main component is phenylethilic alcohol. Cinnamic alcohol was discovered only in the sample from Bulgaria.
Although rosavin, rosarin, rosin and salidroside (and sometimes p-tyrosol, rhodioniside, rhodiolin and rosiridin) are among suspected active ingredients of R. rosea, these compounds are mostly polyphenols. There is no evidence that these chemicals have any physiological effect in humans that could prevent or reduce risk of disease.
Although these phytochemicals are typically mentioned as specific to Rhodiola extracts, there are many other constituent phenolic antioxidants, including proanthocyanidins, quercetin, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid and kaempferol.
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- See for example, Letter, dated April 21, 2005, Food and Drug Administration
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- Media related to Rhodiola rosea at Wikimedia Commons
- Plants For A Future, Rhodiola rosea Rose Root PFAF
- Wilderness Medical Society, Lack of Effect of Rhodiola on Hypoxemia and Oxidative Stress