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Rhodiola, the anti-stress supplement

A feature article in a recent issue of Science News1 presents a very readable history and overview of the herbal supplement Rhodiola — an extract of the subarctic plant Rhodiola rosea.

Rhodiola has many reported applications, including:

  • increasing endurance and exercise speed
  • quickening recovery from stressful mental or physical effort
  • reducing fatigue and listlessness
  • boosting mental performance
  • inducing mental clarity
  • increasing mental-work capacity, problem solving, and short-term memory
  • easing depression
  • reducing post-traumatic stress
  • alleviating symptoms of Lyme Disease
  • slowing the division of cancer cells
  • protecting cells from toxins
  • eliminating headaches
  • lowering production of the stress hormone cortisol
  • acting as antioxidant
  • increasing ATP production in muscle
  • preventing erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation
  • normalizing cardiac function during sleep-deprivation
  • inhibiting bacterial infection
  • preventing damage to the immune system by anticancer drugs
  • correcting diabetes-related enzyme irregularities

All of the early research work on Rhodiola was done in the Soviet Union and published in Russian. Some of it was even kept secret by the Soviet government, since it was deemed to have military value.1 But that situation has changed dramatically. Non-Russian scientists have finally become interested in Rhodiola’s far-reaching potentials, and studies are being done and planned at an accelerating pace. So far in 2007 more than a dozen research papers have already been published in respected journals.

The latest addition to the list of applications for Rhodiola is the suppression of stress-induced anorexia.2 The experiments were done on rats and involved injection of large doses of Rhodiola rosea extract. Does this mean that Rhodiola taken orally in moderate doses is a good treatment for anorexia in humans? Nobody knows for sure, and it may be a long time before anyone performs a 100-million-dollar clinical trial to provide a definitive answer. But if you are suffering from anorexia, you can answer the question for yourself for less than $20, simply by buying Rhodiola from a supplement company and trying it for a month or so.


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