Rhodiola Rosea, also known as “arctic root” or “golden root”, is a member of the family Crassulaeae, plants indigenous to the polar arctic regions of eastern Siberia. As a powerful adaptogen rhodiola offers broad non-specific effects supporting overall body function particularly via adrenal stress.
Adaptogenic (anti-stress) - An adaptogenic herb is one that helps the body adapt to various stressors, whether they are physical, mental or environmental. Rhodiola is a superior plant and is generally regarded as harmless whilst exerting profound supportive effects. Given that we are basically a primitive organism struggling to adapt to a modern high technological environment, now more than ever adaptogens offer protection against the negative effects of stress.
Depression - Depression is a consequence of insufficient serotonin levels in the body brought about by various stimuli. Active compounds found within rhodiola (rosavin and salidroside) improve the passage of serotonin precursors through the blood-brain barrier. Research has also shown rhodiola to help preserve serotonin by inhibiting the activity of COMT (catechol-o-methyl transferase.) Rhodiola can increase serotonin by 30% and decrease COMT by up to 60%.
Prozac, St John’s Wort and Rhodiola – different actions We have seen that depression can be due to low levels of serotonin. Prozac effectively puts a cork on the cell to stop serotonin leaking. St John’s Wort has a gentler action. It is a MAO inhibitor, (MAO breaks down serotonin). Rhodiola effects a balancing action on serotonin by enhancing the production, distribution and uptake of key nutrients essential for the production of serotonin in the brain. St John’s Wort can effect the utilisation of orthodox drugs. St John’s Wort appears to enhance their utilisation and excretion through the liver. There is no evidence to conclude that Rhodiola would have a similar effect on the liver.
The Heart - By decreasing the release of catecholamines and corticosteroids triggered during the stress response, rhodiola has a positive effect on preventing cardiac damage. Rhodiola’s support of the adrenal glands may also explain its ability to help normalize blood sugar, potassium levels and blood pressure reducing risk factors in heart disease.
The Immune System - When the body is placed in a stressful situation the immune system becomes suppressed in order for the body to use that energy to fuel other responses in the fight or flight mode. By helping the body to resist stress rhodiola aids in immune system support. Stress has also been shown to reduce natural killer cell activity. Rhodiola has been found in studies to help to increase the activity of natural killer cells. Rhodiola has also demonstrated potent antioxidant capabilities, with a strong anti-peroxidation effect on lipid membranes. Rhodiola is an effective protector against mutagenic changes and supports cell structures from the harmful effects of free radicals.
Physical and Mental Performance - Rhodiola has been shown to increase the levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and creatine phosphate in muscle tissue. The level of fatty acids in the blood has also been shown to increase with the use of rhodiola. Some research shows that lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine increase the mental capacity of the brain. Because of rhodiola’s ability to regulate the release of these hormones, improved mental performance has been noted.
Male and Female Sexual Health - For centuries rhodiola has been prized for its virtues as a powerful stimulant and has been a major ingredient in many folk-lore love potions. Along with much anecdotal information research has shown that rhodiola can normalize prostate fluid and increase 17-ketosteroids in the urine (a key indicator of male hormone production) in men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Positive results from studies have also been shown in improving both primary and secondary amenorrhea in women. It would seem that that the benefits of rhodiola are not gender biased and that performance improvements are likely in women with sex gland dysfunction.
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