Herb to Know: Rhodiola

| October/November 2004

  • Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Rare Plants

Genus: Rhodiola rosea
Family: Crassulaceae

• Perennial

High in alpine and arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere grows an unassuming herb with some remarkable characteristics. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), a plant adapted to the harsh and unforgiving climate of Siberia and similar regions, appears to have the ability to help the human body adapt to and defend against the debilitating effects of stress.

A perennial plant with yellow flowers, rhodiola is native to dry, high-altitude regions of Asia, Europe and other areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The part of the plant used medicinally is the rhizome, a fleshy underground stem. Common names for rhodiola include golden root, Arctic root and roseroot. The last of these names refers to the rose-like fragrance of the rhizome. The plant is a Crassulaceae member, a plant family made up primarily of succulents that also includes the genus Sedum.

The genus Rhodiola contains more than 100 different species, and at least 20 of these are used in traditional Asian medicine. However, it is important to note that nearly all of the scientific research has been conducted on R. rosea, so whether or not other species confer the same health benefits is unknown.

Rhodiola For Health

Rhodiola rosea displays all the attributes of a classic adaptogen (a valuable tonic herb that strengthens the body’s nonspecific resistance to the effects of physical stress, such as that caused by overwork or extreme temperatures). Modern research, backed by centuries of traditional use, suggests rhodiola can help counteract stress-related fatigue, enhance stamina and work performance, and perhaps even boost mood and memory.

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