A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Golden Root

Rhodiola rosea

Herbs gallery - Golden Root

Common names

  • Golden Root
  • Rose Root

Rhodiola rosea, also commonly known as 'golden root' or 'rose root', is native to the mountainous regions of Asia, Europe as well as the high altitudes in the Arctic region. The herb breeds well in dry, cold conditions and has remained a regular item in the diets of numerous eastern European and Scandinavian nations for several centuries. Hence, it is little surprising that most of the research on this herb has been undertaken in these parts of the world. Rhodiola rosea is also a popular plant in eastern European and Asian traditional herbal medicines.

In fact, Russian researchers have classified this herb as an adaptogen, which is basically effective in enhancing stamina. The herb is also useful in protecting against depression, cancer and cardio-pulmonary malfunctioning. At the same time, the herb is attributed with eradicating weariness, hypertension, sleep disturbances, irritability, poor appetite, irritability and boosting work performance as well as thwarting physical conditions related to high altitude. Some researchers claim that Rhodiola rosea may also be effective in enhancing the function of thyroid, boosting memory, controlling menstruation and sterility as well as defending people against ecological contaminants.

As an adaptogen, golden root protects the central nervous system activities. This attribute of golden root is primarily considered to be owing to the herb's ability to influence levels and activity of monoamines and opioid peptides like beta-endorphins. Russian scientists have examined a number of other herbal adaptogens like Eleutherococcus senticosus also called the Siberian ginseng and Panax ginseng often called the Korean ginseng and like these derivatives of Rhodiola rosea also results in positive transformations in an assortment of various areas of physiological or normal functioning of organs together with neurotransmitter levels, actions of the central nervous system as well as the cardiovascular utility.

It may be noted here that apart from Rhodiola rosea, scientists have identified over 200 different species of Rhodiola and among these as many as 20 are presently made use of in therapeutic systems in Asia. These varieties of Rhodiola include R. brevipetiolata, R. alterna, R. crenulata, R. quadrifida, R. kirilowii, R. sacra and R. sachalinensis.

The genesis of the term adaptogen dates back to 1947 and the credit for coining the term has been attributed to the Russian scientist Lazarev. Lazarev described an 'adaptogen' as an agent that enables an organism to thwart unfavorable physical, chemical or biological stressor by producing a vague opposition. Lazarev's definition of the substance embraces the notion that controlling the adaptogenic agent enables an organism to be accustomed from before in such a way that permits it to become more proficient in reacting suitably when it is finally pressed with assorted stipulations. Later, in 1969, scientists Brekhman and Dardymov suggested precise conditions that required to be met so that a substance can be eligible to be called an adaptogen.

When animals and humans are subjected to strain for a period of time, it generates distinctive modifications in a number of hormones and considerations related to the central nervous system as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). Alterations in HPA comprise an enhancement in cortisol, a corticosteroid hormone or gluco-corticoid produced by the adrenal cortex, which is a part of the adrenal gland. In addition, it also results in a diminished understanding of the HPA to reaction down-regulation as well as a disorder in the circadian tempo in the secretion of cortisol. The changes in the central nervous system consist of the stress-induced lessening of catecholamine neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. In addition, there is also heightened rise in the intensity of beta-endorphin when animals and humans are subjected to traumatic situations.

It must be underlined here that adaptation or adjustment is essential in order to effectively fight pressure and traumatic conditions. In this case, adaptation may be described best as the aptitude to be left bare to a stressor, while reacting with either diminished or no distinctive hormonal disturbances at all.

In this instance, adaptation or familiarization also denotes a state of readiness as well as capability to quickly redeem homeostasis (an ideal or virtual state of equilibrium, in which all body systems are working and interacting in an appropriate way to fulfill all the needs of the person and/or the body) when the stressor is removed. For instance, a trained athlete may take part in an event that would bring on a great HPA perturbation or stress response in an inactive person, and still the athlete will be comparatively remain impervious. This is primarily owing to the quality of adjustment or adaptation in the athlete that he or she may have attained during their training procedure. In addition, if athletes are laid bare to stressors that they had not been trained for, there could be distinctive hormonal perturbations that are typical of a stress reaction. Nevertheless, the stress reaction in the athletes would not be as much as it would be in any ordinary or lesser robust persons because the athletes are always continuing with their respective training processes. What is more, after the stress ends, it would be anticipated that the physiology of the athletes would enable them to redeem homeostasis very quickly. It may be noted that this occurs owing to the non-specific opposition to stress and the attribute has been achieved owing to a training process that stimulates more vigor and robustness.

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In fact, the usefulness of the herb adaptogens is much similar to the preparation undertaken by an athlete with a view to organize him or herself for any competition. Adaptogens found in the plants enable our anatomy to set in motion the adaptation or adjustment course of action to stress. Whenever there is a demanding condition, intake of adaptogens produces some extent of indiscriminate adaptation or non-specific resistance that permits the human physiology to take care of any demanding condition in a more inventive manner.

For instance, administration of golden root endorses a reasonable enhancement in the quantity of serum immunoreactive beta-endorphin in rodents in the very basic situations. The modest enhancement in the amount of serum immunoreactive (reacting to particular antigens) beta-endorphin is equivalent to what is found when the rodents are familiarized to exercise. When rats treated with Rhodiola rosea were put under a non-specific stress for about four-hour duration, scientists either did not observe any of the anticipated rise in beta-endorphin or it found to have been diminished considerably. As a result, the typical disturbances of the HPA were lessened or completely put off. It was found that the administration of golden root in these rodents seemed to have produced some kind of non-specific or vague resistance and trained them to react to the ultimate demanding situations in a more fitting manner.

Researches have shown that Rhodiola rosea seems to provide an ambiguous opposition to all physical, chemical and biological stimulants causing stress in rodents as well as other animals. There is also proof suggesting that administration of Rhodiola rosea also offers cardio defensive and anti-cancer advantages in animals. A swimming 'to the limit' test conducted on rats have shown that the administration of Rhodiola rosea enhanced the swimming timing of these animals by around 135 to 159%. Supplementation of Rhodiola rosea in rats also perked up their working ability constantly.

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Two trials conducted with golden root on rats have proposed the potential advantages on several facets of learning and memory in the rodents under specific investigational circumstances. Oral administration of Rhodiola rosea in dosage of 0.1 ml per day for a period of 10 days at a stretch led to an insignificant inclination toward safeguard against recollection impairments. This was appraised by means of a curtailed unreceptive evasion brought about by electro-shock in the rats.

Following the administration of a single dose of golden root extract given in 0.10 ml measure, showed enhancement in the learning as well as memory retention in the rats. This was established through a maze test with negative reinforcement. It may be mentioned here that repetitive dosage with an equal measure of the golden root extract for a period of 10 days produced remarkable enhancement in long-standing memory. This was appraised by means of a maze test with negative enforcement as well as the 'staircase' procedure with positive enforcement. It is important to note that two more doses of 0.02 ml and 1.0 ml of golden root extract were also used during this experiment, but these did not show any significant consequence on learning and recollection abilities.

Parts used



Cardio protective action
Researches have shown that use of Rhodiola rosea is effective in calming down or cure the damage done to and malfunctioning of the cardiovascular tissues owing to stress and trauma. In addition, Rhodiola rosea extract is also helpful in preventing the decline in cardiac contractile force that is caused by ecological stress in the variety of severe cooling and adds to steady contractility. In the case of animals, severe cooling results in a decline in myocardial contractile action that to some extent recuperates for the duration of the initial 18 hours after the cold stress is withdrawn. Such recuperation is considered to be only incomplete, as the tissues of the heart are inept in steady contractility during the perfusion (the passage of fluid through the lymphatic system or blood vessels to an organ or a tissue) period.
In such kind of stress, advance treatment using Rhodiola rosea extracts seems to produce a flexible reaction. It was found that when rats pretreated with Rhodiola rosea extracts were laid bare to severe cooling, it was possible to avert the decline in contractility and, as a result, there was a steady contractility of the heart tissue all through perfusion.
Meanwhile, additional information recommends that using Rhodiola rosea extracts safeguards the cardiovascular tissue from stress caused by the release of catecholamine and also protects against arrhythmias stimulated by adrenaline in rodents. In fact, it is recommended that the anti-arrhythmic impact of Rhodiola rosea is secondary to ability to bring about opioid biosynthesis and linked to the stimulation of marginal kappa-opioid receptors.
Anti-cancer action
Administering golden root seems to be a prospective anti-cancer agent and may prove to be effective when used in combination with a number of pharmaceutical anti-tumor agents. It was found that when Rhodiola rosea extract supplements were used in rats with transplanted solid Ehrlich adenocarcinoma and metastasizing rat Pliss lymphosarcoma, they slowed down the development of both types of lumps/ tumors, diminished metastasis to the liver as well as lengthen the survival significantly.
In addition, it has also been found that administering extracts obtained from golden root restrained the development of as well as the degree of metastasis (spreading of a disease, especially cancer, to another part of the body) from transplanted Lewis lung carcinomas (any malignant cancer that arises from epithelial cells). Again when extract from golden root was blended with the anti-tumor agent cyclophosphamide in these identical lumps models, the anti-tumor and anti-metastatic efficiency of the healing with the drug was augmented. The authors of the research findings also remarked that they had detected 'complete abrogation of the haematotoxicity of cyclophosphamide'. It may be mentioned here that the chemotherapeutic medicine Adriamycin normally stimulates marked malfunctioning of the liver that is usually revealed by an enhancement in the intensity of transaminase. Trials conducted with animals showed that addition of Rhodiola rosea extract to a procedure with the chemotherapeutic drug Adriamycin led to an enhanced slowing down of the tumor from spreading to other body parts, in comparison to using the Adriamycin drug alone. This blended procedure also thwarted the toxicity of the liver.
Golden root and immunity
Several researches have established that administration of medications prepared with extracts of the golden root invigorates the immune system in two methods. Firstly, it directly incites the immune defense by means of promoting one of the most significant kinds of immune cells - Natural Killer Cells or the NK-Cells, and looks for and destroys the contaminated cells in our system. In fact, golden root regulates the immune system by enhancing the T-cell immunity. Researches have also been found to enhance the body's fight against contaminants that may build up in the body during infectious growth within the body. Secondly, Rhodiola rosea invigorates the immune system by making an individual less vulnerable to tension. Scientists have discovered that stress stifles immunity and tears down our resistance to a variety of bacterial and/ or viral attacks. Owing to the effect of the natural killer cells on tumors, Rhodiola rosea is also capable of improving the B cell immunity by means of thwarting the inhibition of B cell immunity that takes place for the duration of strain. When a person is under stressful conditions, a considerable amount of the body's energy is wasted uselessly. In fact, when an individual is persistently bared to stress, it constantly steals energy from other systems. As a result, the individual suffers from a poor immune system and deteriorating health conditions.
Scientists in erstwhile Soviet Union have experimented with Rhodiola rosea for over 35 years, but regrettably the findings of their researches are presently not available for examination. As a result, it is difficult to verify the claims of Russians regarding Rhodiola rosea's antidepressant, anti-cancer, and cardio defensive as well as central nervous system augmenting features. However, the findings of the researches conducted later on animals that are available to a great extent endorse the utility of this plant adaptogen in a number of conditions mentioned by the Russian scientists. The suggested benefits from the therapeutic use of Rhodiola include:

In addition to the above benefits, many researchers have also claimed that the therapeutic properties of the herb are highly effective in treating asthenic conditions, such as deterioration in work performance, sleep disorders, lack of hunger or poor desire for food, hypertension, irritability, exhaustion and headaches, that occur following severe physical or cerebral stress, flu and other viral attacks and illnesses. Two indiscriminate, double-blind and placebo-managed experiments of the consistent concentrates of Rhodiola rosea root (SHR-5) to some extent offer espousal for these supposed adaptogenic features and hint at the probable efficacy of the herb in asthenic conditions caused by working too hard or over study. It may be noted here that SHR-5 is regularized to enclose 3.6 per cent of rosavin, 1.6 per cent of salidroside and less more than 0.1 per cent of p-tyrosol.

Habitat and cultivation

Cultivating golden root is not all that simple, but the plant can be propagated in two ways. One way of cultivating golden root  is growing the plant from its seed, while the other method is vegetative propagation by root division.

Cultivation from seed
As mentioned above, growing rose root from its seeds is not that easy job as the seeds of this plant are not only very small, but the dried seed have a poor germination capability. Of all the seeds sowed, the possibility of germination is a mere two to twenty five per cent. Nevertheless, the germination capacity of the Rhodiola rosea seeds can be enhanced by keeping the dry seeds of the plants in a moist and cool state for around a month before sowing them. The process of doing this is, however, simple - soak the dry seeds of Rhodiola rosea in water overnight and then put them in damp sand in a proper pot. When you have stored the seeds in a cool and moist condition with temperatures between 0° and 2°C for about a month, the germination capacity of the seeds will generally enhance to approximately 75 per cent. If these moist seeds are sowed outdoors in naturally prepared beds during autumn - especially in the months of September and October, one is able to achieve 95 to 100 per cent germination. After sowing, the seeds normally take four to five days to sprout and they bear the first leaves around 25 to 40 days.
Vegetative propagation (Root division)
In addition to cultivating Rhodiola rosea from its seeds, the plant can also be propagated through root division. In order to cultivate the plant by vegetative propagation, one needs to slice its tuber-like roots growing below the ground into segments each measuring 1.5 cm to 15 cm in length and having a minimum of one bud and a few root hairs. Root division of Rhodiola rosea can be done all through the autumn, but before frosting begins. Root division can also be performed during the early part of spring. The chopped root pieces ought to be soon planted in soil and the plantlets start growing after three weeks of transplantation.

Sandy or brown forest soil having rich humus content is most suitable for cultivating rose root. While the beds of the plants need to be prepared in an open and sunny place and properly treated with processed manure in the quantity of 5 kg/ sq meter or with four to six kg of fertilizer for every sq. meter. It is important to weed out the soil on a regular basis. You may add pebbles, gravel or vermiculite (any of a group of platy minerals) to the soil to enhance the porous quality of the soil and also boosts plant growth. However, one should be careful of not using any peat-based fertilizer. The plants require frequent and careful watering and weeding all through the first month of the transplantation of the root pieces. Pick the seedlings into separate pots when they have grown up sufficiently for handling. During the first winter, the plants need to be grown in greenhouses. During early summer of the subsequent year, the plants should be transplanted outdoors.


The chemical structure as well as the physiological features of the different species of Rhodiola varies from one species of the plant to another. However, many species of the Rhodiola possess similar chemical composition and physiological features.

Thus far, scientists have been able to segregate 28 compounds from the Rhodiola rosea roots and the parts of the plant above the ground. Among these 28 compounds, 12 are new compounds. Roots of the Rhodiola rosea enclose a variety of organically active materials comprising organic acids, tannins, flavonoids as well as phenolic glycosides. Initially, the stimulating as well as adoptogenic features of Rhodiola rosea were ascribed to compounds segregated from the plant's roots and recognized as phenolic glycoside rhodioloside and p-tyrosol. Later, the arrangement or structural composition of rhodioloside was found to be akin to the already familiar glycoside salidroside present in many other species of plants. In fact, rhodioloside, salidroside and sometimes even rhodosin are best used to express the compound rhodioloside and these are regarded to be synonyms. Other glycoside amalgams that have been segregated from the Rhodiola rosea comprise rhodiolin, rhodioniside, rosavin, rosarin and rosiridin. Scientists consider these glycoside amalgams to be vital for the examined adaptogenic features of the rose root.

Scientists have found an assortment of antioxidant amalgams in Rhodiola rosea and associated genus, such as organic acids (caffeic acid, gallic acid and chlorogenic acid), p-tyrosol and flavonoids (proanthocyanidins and catechins). The alcohol and water extracts of Rhodiola sp. have shown considerable free radical hunting actions and this property has been ascribed to the range of antioxidant amalgams. In fact, p-tyrosol has demonstrated the ability to be absorbed voluntarily and depending on the quantity of dosage following oral intake of the compound. The compound extracted from Rhodiola sp. seems to generate a noteworthy antioxidant and reticent 5-lipoxygenase slowing down activity in vivo (a biological process occurring or made to happen in an organism).

Salidroside or rhodioloside, p-tyrosol and the added glycoside amalgams that are similar to salidroside, including rosin, rhodiolin, rosavin, rosiridin and rosarin are considered to be the most vital elements present in the herb and that are essential for remedial actions. The ingredients found in salidroside and p-tyrosol in the root sections collected from different regions in China have shown to vary from 1.3 to 11.1 mg/g and 0.3 to 2.2 mg/gm respectively. In fact, these two amalgams have been found in all the studied species of Rhodiola. Nevertheless, the other dynamic glycosides that comprise rosin, rosavin and rosarin have not been found in all the tested Rhodiola species. Owing to such disparity in the Rhodiola species, substantiation of Rhodiola rosea by means of high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) largely relies on the substance of the added glycosides, instead of salidroside and p-tyrosol. In fact, presently, the ingredient rosavin has been opted for the consistency of extracts from the Rhodiola species.

Usual dosage

The dosage of a regularized golden root concentrate in two double blind clinical experiments conducted with the herb varied between 100 mg and 170 mg each day. The rosavin content in the daily dosage of the standardized Rhodiola rosea extract was around 3.6 to 6.14 mg. The available curative dosage of medications prepared with Rhodiola rosea concentrate will differ conditional on the extent of the standardization of the plant extract; nevertheless, the rosavin content in the daily dosage mentioned above appears to be sensible for constant administration of the medications prepared from Rhodiola rosea extract. In other words, this would mean a daily dosage of around 360 mg to 600 mg Rhodiola rosea for a concentrate regularized for one per cent rosavin, 180 mg to 300 mg of an extract standardized for two per cent rosavin or the dosage ranging between 100 mg and 170 mg for a concentrate regularized for 3.6 per cent rosavin. It is important to note here that as an adaptogen, persistent consumption of medications prepared with Rhodiola rosea extract is generally started a number of weeks before the phase of anticipated heightened physiological, biological and chemical stress and sustained all the way through the length of the demanding incident or activity. Always bear in mind that when Rhodiola rosea is being taken as a single dosage for any severe reason, such as for an examination or an athletic championship, the recommended dosage is normally thrice more than the dosage taken for constant supplementation.

Side effects and cautions

It is significant to note that the doses of Rhodiola extracts administered during the clinical trials reported a total absence of any adverse side effects.

Nevertheless, initial clinical response hints that when Rhodiola rosea extract regularized for two per cent rosavin is taken in does between 1.5 gm and 2.9 gm, it may lead to enhanced petulance and insomnia in a number of patients within a number of days. It is likely that additional physiological limitation that gain from administering a lesser dosage of Rhodiola rosea extract may be worsened by a dosage that is incongruously high and/ or continued for extended periods of time.

No preparation from golden root extracts should be taken during pregnancy or lactation. This is primarily owing to the fact that the scientists are yet to ascertain the safety of the medication when used by pregnant women or those who are breast-feeding. And patients taking high dosages of medications prepared with golden root extracts are most likely to confront the hazards of insomnia.

Apart from these shortcomings, usage of medications prepared with rose root extracts is considered to be safe. In fact, Rhodiola rosea is not known to have any interaction with any familiar drug or nutrient and, hence, therapeutic preparations with extracts from the plant may be taken along with other medications or nourishing agents. Nevertheless, the scientists are yet to ascertain a lot many aspects regarding this herb and the manner in which it reacts with other adoptogens, like the Siberian ginseng, and with added nutritional enhancements.

Collection and harvesting

Although the Rhodiola rosea plants normally attain their utmost tallness three years after planting them, the therapeutic roots of this plant is only fit for harvesting after a minimum of five years of their existence.

Autumn is the best time of the year to harvest the Rhodiola rosea roots as the plant discontinues its vegetative growth during this season and the dehydrated content of the roots are at their maximum. Harvesting these medicinal roots is very simple as all that needs to be done is to dig them out by hand. However, where the plant is cultivated on large-scale cultivators may use machines to facilitate the harvesting process.

Following the harvesting, the roots need to be cut into narrow pieces each measuring about 10 cm in length and left to dehydrate in a properly ventilated drier at temperatures ranging between 40° and 50°C for about four days to a week. When subjected to such conditions, the fundamental white color of the Rhodiola rosea roots change from white to light brown. However, it is advisable not to dry the roots in sunlight as strong light is likely to wipe out the therapeutic contents in the roots. The best way to store the dehydrated roots is to pack them in paper packets and keep in a cool dry place. The dry roots can be stored effectively in this process for up to three years.

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