Rhodiola Rosea is a unique herb that grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Asia and Eastern Europe. It is classified as an adaptogenic herb which means it can help the body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress. In fact, Rhodiola is one of the most effective adaptogens available and has been extensively examined in numerous research studies.
Historically, the Vikings used Rhodiola to enhance physical strength and the Sherpa people used it to climb at high altitudes including Mt. Everest. The Russians have used Rhodiola over the past 70 years to improve work performance, insomnia, fatigue, and increase athletic endurance.
Due to its ‘adaptogenic’ effects, Rhodiola Rosea can be extremely effective in protecting against fatigue and burnout. One way it achieves this is by helping the body ‘adapt’ better to stress (see image below).
During times of acute stress (alarm phase), the body responds by releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. This increased cortisol is beneficial as it helps our body mobilise energy stores to deal with the stress (known as the fight or flight response). When the stress subsides, so do levels of cortisol (resistance phase), and the body returns to equilibrium. Unfortunately, if the stress remains (which is common for many of us), the body eventually struggles to cope with the excess cortisol. This is when we may experience periods of low energy or fatigue (exhaustion phase).
The figure below demonstrates how Rhodiola Rosea moderates the stress response. Rhodiola Rosea’s stress-protective effects also occur because it has been shown to increase important neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine, and increase the body’s defence against free radicals via its antioxidant effects.
Although the majority of clinical studies have shown Rhodiola Rosea to be helpful in overcoming fatigue and burn-out, they are not all positive. This is likely due to differences in the quality of extracts used in the studies. Most of the positive human clinical trials used the patented extract SHR-5. This extract is standardised to a minimum 2 percent rosavins and 0.8 to 1 percent salidroside. Dr Panossian, an expert in Rhodiola, points out that the content of active ingredients in herbal preparations of Rhodiola depends on many factors such as the geographic and climate zone it was grown, the season and weather conditions during harvesting, and how it was dried, extracted and prepared into final dosage form1.
Alarmingly, in a recent study published in the journal ‘Phytomedicine’ it was revealed that several commercial products claiming to contain Rhodiola Rosea either did not contain any Rhodiola Rosea or included adulterated forms2. The researchers analysed 40 commercial products claiming to contain Rhodiola Rosea and found that approximately one-quarter of unregistered Rhodiola products were either adulterated or contained low levels of rosavin. In addition to this, around 80% of products were reported to be of poor quality.
BCN’s Rhodiola Advanced is sourced from Finzelberg, one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of plant extracts for the pharmaceutical industry, with experience and expertise dating back to 1875. Analytic tests have confirmed its Rhodiola Rosea to have an almost identical profile to SHR-5.
1. Panossian, A. et al Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):481-93.
2. Booker A., et al. The authenticity and quality of Rhodiola rosea products. Phytomedicine. 2015 Oct 31. pii: S0944-7113(15)00318-9.