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Rhodiola: The Artic Rose

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), also known as golden root, king’s crown and artic rose, is a perennial succulent naturally distributed throughout the mountainous regions of Asia and Europe, as well as some parts of eastern North America. First cultivated and traded in the Caucasus Mountains, rhodiola eventually became known as a restorative medicinal to the ancient Greeks. In fact, the physician Dioscorides penned one of the earliest accounts of the virtues of rhodiola root in 77 AD in his classic text De Materia Medica.

Benefits of Rhodiola Root

For thousands of years, rhodiola root has been valued in traditional Chinese medicine for its rejuvenating properties. Specifically, the herb is an adaptogen, meaning that it counters the effects of stress to restore balance between the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight state) and the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxed state). One of the ways that rhodiola achieves this is to enhance the activity of certain brain chemicals, namely serotonin and the “feel good” neurotransmitters known as beta-endorphins.

Several studies show that rhodiola provides potent antioxidant effects. Researchers at the Jiangsu Institute of Nuclear Medicine have found that a glycoside in rhodiola root called salidroside protects nervous system cells from oxidative damage, which suggests that the herb may play a role in helping to prevent neurogenerative diseases.

Other research shows that rhodiola may help to relieve anxiety, promote restful sleep and enhance mood. As an adaptogen, the herb helps the body cope with the challenges of physical exercise. Some studies also show that rhodiola enhances athletic endurance by stimulating the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Not only does ATP provide energy to meet and tolerate physical demands, but it also helps the body to resist fatigue by initiating post-exercise muscle repair processes. In one study, an extract of rhodiola root decreased levels of creatine kinase and C-reactive protein, markers of oxidative damage and inflammation.

How to Use

Dried rhodiola root may be tinctured or prepared as tea. Due to the astringent qualities of the root, it has a bitter flavor.

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