Rhodiola is a genus of perennial plants that grow in high-altitude and other cold regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Rhodiola species are often called “stonecrops” due to the types of terrain they typically grow in.

Though 96 different species of Rhodiola have been identified, in the sphere of health the two widely-recognized strains are Rhodiola crenulata and Rhodiola rosea.

Rhodiola is famous for being able to survive, even thrive, in some of the harshest high-altitude habitats on earth.

Brief history

Two thousand years ago native populations learned that powerful “survivability” nutrients in the plants could be passed on to people. The medicinal value placed on Rhodiola can be seen in the name it is given in some traditional cultures–“Golden Root.”

Today those nutrient-medicinals are finally being recognized and studied in depth by modern scientists.

Rhodiola has been hailed a general tonic herb, offering improvements to overall health to the whole body. It is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is recommended for a variety of conditions and ailments.

In the high-altitude regions of the Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in China—where the plant is most prolific—it is used for acute mountain sickness, memory enhancement, energy and depression.

The first documented use of Rhodiola in the Western culture dates back to 90 AD when famed Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides recorded its benefits in his famous medical encyclopedia De Materia Medica.

Studies conducted during recent decades prove the ancient practitioners were right—Rhodiola provides wide-ranging benefits.

These studies have been conducted in at least a dozen countries and the study subjects have been incredibly diverse: humans with depression, rats in hypobaric chambers, Covid patients, athletes, pilots, soldiers and more.

Here is a small selection of three studies

Study 1 – Improved oxygen absorption

A study published in June 2013 in Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine confirmed the anti-hypoxia benefit that has been long asserted by traditional medicine practitioners. In Tibet, Rhodiola has long been prescribed to improve oxygen absorbency at high altitudes.

According to the researchers, rats exposed to a hypobaric hypoxia chamber were used to investigate the efficacy and underlying mechanism of Rhodiola crenulata extract in vivo.

The researchers concluded their study “provides significant evidence to support the ethnopharmacological role of Rhodiola crenulata as a popular folk medicine for high-altitude sickness in Tibet, and this effect is at least partly due to the ability to maintain pulmonary sodium transport via the preservation of Na,K-ATPase.”

Na,K-ATPase is an enzyme found in the membrane of all animal cells. It performs several functions in cell physiology.

Study 2 – Anti-aging

A 2019 review published in Aging and Disease determined that Rhodiola possessed “therapeutic properties for a variety of age-related diseases.”

The review, which analyzed dozens of existing studies, found the chemical components of Rhodiola had shown “pharmacological effects” on different organs and body systems—including the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Rhodiola extracts and compounds display numerous bioactivities including anti-oxidative, anti-aging, anti-cancer and neuroprotective activities as well as possess significant adaptogenic properties,” the researchers wrote in the review’s conclusions.

Study 3 – Anti-depressant

A 2020 study published in Journal of Affective Disorders concluded that Rhodiola supplementation demonstrated anti-depressive benefits in patients with mild to moderate depression.

The study, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, included 100 patients divided into a group that was administered Rhodiola supplements and a group that was provided a placebo.

At the end of a 12-week trial period significant improvements were observed in the supplement-taking participants.

“As a safe and effective alternative therapy for mild to moderate major depressive disorder, Rhodiola capsules would be of public health relevance for many individuals unable, or unwilling, to use conventional antidepressant therapy,” the researchers wrote in the study conclusions.

Find Rhodiola in the following Optimal Health Systems products:

Tru-Energy Pak
Natural Z Pak
Optimal B Awake
Pre-conditioning Pak

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Sources: Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Aging and Disease, Journal of Affective Disorders.