Rhodiola Rosea, The Vikings Choice

Rhodiola rosea: The Vikings Choice

Life in the 21st century can be fast paced, keeping up with your finances, work and family commitments is something the modern human has now been expected to cope with, even having to compromise their health. For most, this leads to the development of chronic stress, which among the other disease of the world is a killer in its own respect.  Long-term stress can lead to symptoms like anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, a weakened immune system and can give rise to heart conditions and hormonal problems(Li et al., 2017).

What is Rhodiola rosea?

Rhodiola rosea L. also called “golden root” grows in high altitude arctic areas in Europe and Asia. The plant reaches a height of about 12 to 30 inches and spawns bright yellow flowers. There are over 200 species of the plant, where only 20 varieties have been considered to be medically important(Li et al., 2017). It is a rhizome, and one of the earliest record for Rhodiola rosea L. medicinal properties dates back to 77 C.E. where a Greek physician referred to it in “De Materia Medica”.

For  centuries on end, R.rosea has been utilized in traditional medicine in Scandinavia. Between the years 1725 to 1960, R.rosea has been mentioned for its medical applications in academic publications in Sweden, Norway, and even Iceland. Throughout history, R.rosea has been studied as an adaptogen, in combination with its other health promoting effects (Rhodiola Rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview - American Botanical Council, n.d.). R. rosea has been known to be the medicine of the Vikings that used the herb to improve their mental and physical resilience.

What makes R.rosea a potent therapeutic?

R.rosea rhizomes have been studied extensively and there have been 140 compounds isolated by research teams, including six groups of phytochemicals. Some important compounds are namely salidroside, trans-cinnamyl alcohol glycoside compounds like rhodiolin, rosin, rosavin, rosarian and rosiridin and tyrosol are thought to be most important in R.roseas medicinal properties(Stojcheva & Quintela, 2022).

Scientifically studied benefits of R.rosea

The extract of Rhodiola rosea, has been used as a supplement taken by athletes and other individuals seeking to enhance the bodies resistance to physical and mental stresses.  In addition to its regular uses, in the field of pharmacology, evidence has demonstrated R.rosea to have anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulating, DNA repair and anti-cancer properties(Li et al., 2017).

There’s a lot of evidence supporting R.roseas ability as an adaptogen. In particular, one double blind, placebo controlled study assessed the physical work capacity, coordination, kinesthetic sensitivity and general well-being of students. The conclusion of the study showed that these parameters improved in a statistically significant way, in addition to decreasing fatigue and situational anxiety(Stojcheva & Quintela, 2022).

Its anti-cancer properties have been extensively researched, and it has been found out that Rhodiola rosea does this by inhibiting something known as the mTOR pathway which reduces a cancers ability to form new blood vessels by reducing the activation of a certain gene.

In addition to improving mental resilience, there have been studies that have shown R.rosea ability to improve mental performance and attention. In several clinical trials, participants were administered the compound SHR-5, an extract from R.rosea. With repeated episodes of administration, when the participants were tested their performance and attention significantly improved. It also provided additional benefits by preventing physical, mental and emotional exhaustion in patients who already had fatigue syndrome.  The SHR-5 extract, in animal studies, has been shown to increase the lifespan of the fruit fly by upto 31%(Li et al., 2017).

One of the mechanisms that Rhodiola rosea extracts follow to achieve this is by reducing the levels of a hormone known as corticotropin-releasing hormone within the blood. This hormone is geared to stimulate the secretion of a stress hormone known as corticosterone and as a result, with decreasing levels secreted, the body is less vulnerable of likely to go into a stressed state. This evidence was further corroborated by animals studies where R.rosea extracts achived through a pathway in part of the brain (hypothalamus) in rats, which is the main place responsible for secreting corticotropin releasing hormone (Li et al., 2017). There are others studies that support this evidence(Stojcheva & Quintela, 2022).

The benefits of Rhodiola rosea don't end there. Studies have been performed to assess the immunostimulatory function of the plants extract, where it has been shown to positively modulate cell levels. It has been shown to increase CD3 and CD4 T white blood cell levels, strengthening the adaptive immune system(Li et al., 2017).

Why you should consider taking Rhodiola rosea supplements?

If you are experiencing health problems due to external emotional, physical and emotional stress, or experiencing low energy levels or a declining work capacity, the extracts of Rhodiola rosea act as an adaptogen, that aim to increase the body's resistance to these stressors. The supplement also has a calming and cognitive stimulatory effect which may help enhance your productivity even beyond your usual capacity.


Li, Y., Pham, V., Bui, M., Song, L., Wu, C., Walia, A., Uchio, E., Smith-Liu, F., & Zi, X. (2017). Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention. Current Pharmacology Reports, 3(6), 384. https://doi.org/10.1007/S40495-017-0106-1

Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview - American Botanical Council. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2022, from https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/56/table-of-contents/article2333/

Stojcheva, E. I., & Quintela, J. C. (2022). The Effectiveness of Rhodiola rosea L. Preparations in Alleviating Various Aspects of Life-Stress Symptoms and Stress-Induced Conditions—Encouraging Clinical Evidence. Molecules, 27(12). https://doi.org/10.3390/MOLECULES27123902


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