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Rhodiola rosea (commonly golden root, rose root, roseroot, Aaron's rod, arctic root, king's crown, lignum rhodium, orpin rose) is a plant in the Crassulaceae family that grows in cold regions of the world. These include 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. The perennial plant grows in areas up to 2280 meters elevation. 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.
Supporters of alternative medicine have made a number of claims that R. rosea treats a wide variety of medical conditions - anywhere from fatigue to cancer. 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 potential health effects
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.
R. rosea contains a variety of compounds that may contribute to its effects, including the class of rosavins that includes rosavin, rosarin, and rosin. Several studies have suggested that the most active components are likely to be rhodioloside and tyrosol, with other components being inactive when administered alone, but showing synergistic effects when a fixed combination of rhodioloside, rosavin, rosarin and rosin was used. Authentication, as well as potency, of R. rosea crude material and standardized extracts thereof are carried out with validated high-performance liquid chromatography analyses to verify the content of the marker constituents salidroside, rosarin, rosavin, rosin and rosiridin.
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.
Animal tests have suggested a variety of beneficial effects for R. rosea extracts, and there is some scientific evidence for its efficacy as a treatment for depression and fatigue  in humans.
R. rosea extract exerts an antifatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in healthy subjects and burnout patients with fatigue syndrome. Rhodiola significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and improved attention after four weeks of repeated administration. A 2007 clinical trial from Armenia showed significant effect for a Rhodiola extract in doses of 340–680mg per day in male and female patients from 18 to 70 years old with mild to moderate depression. No side effects were demonstrated at these doses. One study found inhibition of MAO-A and MAO-B. Studies on whether Rhodiola improves physical performance have been inconclusive, with some studies showing some benefit, while others show no significant difference.
Two systematic reviews on R. rosea extracts concluded that the research evidence is contradictory, and definite conclusions over its efficacy to relieve mental and physical fatigue are hampered by the lack of rigorously-designed, well-controlled randomized control trials 
R. rosea promotes the release of norepinephrine from rat pineal corpus cavernosum smooth muscle cell and artery endothelium cell, which was correlated with its effect of resisting senility. R. rosea extract has been found to increase the life span of fruit fly (Drosophila) by 24% independently of dietary restriction.
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- Media related to Rhodiola rosea at Wikimedia Commons
- Whole Health MD, Reference Library
- Plants For A Future, Rhodiola rosea Rose Root PFAF
- Wilderness Medical Society, Lack of Effect of Rhodiola on Hypoxemia and Oxidative Stress