The floral scented rhodiola root, used for thousands of years in Europe and Asia, has just recently been introduced to the U.S. Traditionally; one of its main uses in the Himalayas was for occasional altitude related ailments.
Rhodiola promotes healthy response to stress and adrenal functioning.*
North American Rhodiola: Our North American Rhodiola is coming from one of the few cultivated varieties in the world. It is grown and tended in soil free from chemicals and pesticides and is in accordance with the Good Agricultural and Collection Practice for Herbal Raw Materials (GACP). The GACP ensures herbal raw material will be correctly identified, non-adulterated, has accurate representation regarding the quality of the product, and is sustainably harvested.
Chinese Rhodiola: Rhodiola from China is the most prevalent material on the market. Our organic Chinese Rhodiola is wild harvested from organically certified lands. The sustainability of harvesting this plant from sensitive habitats is increasingly becoming a concern. Because of this China has stepped up its efforts to limit the harvest and sale of the plant in order to protect the plant and the ecosystem. We are still bringing in small amounts of this material when we can, but are focusing our purchasing power on moving towards the cultivated North American Rhodiola.
Rhodiola rosea is only one of 90 Rhodiola species (55 of which are found in China,5 and 30 of which can be found in Tibet)6 all of which resemble sedum (Sedum sp.), the popular garden ornamental, and are members of the Crassulaceaefamily.1 Both of these genera are often referred to as 'stonecrops' due to their ability to survive in dry rocky areas. Many different species are used traditionally and somewhat interchangeably.6 The following have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) R. crenulata, R. sacra, R. algida, R. dumulosa, R. henyri, R. rosea, R. yunnanensis, R. kirilowii, R. sachalinensis.6 R. rosea is a perennial that prefers arid sandy soil and grows at very high altitudes, particularly in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia.2
Rhodiola grows in North America as well, in Canada and in the United States. In the U.S. it is native to eastern Maine and southern Vermont (although in Vermont it is considered extremely rare and threatened),7 and introduced to Connecticut,3 Alaska, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, and can possibly be found in mountainous regions in several other states.1 This species has a fragrant rose smelling rhizome, hence the name of the specific name 'rosea.'2 The generic name refers to its fragrance as well, and is derived from the Greek 'rhodon', which also means 'rose'.8
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
R. rosea may grow up to 20 years before being harvested in the wild. Popularity of this herbal supplement has led to overharvesting in the wild in recent years.9 Several states and countries are avidly working to protect this species from extinction by classifying it as endangered.9 Thus, globally, a high demand for commercially cultivated R. rosea is underway.
HISTORY AND FOLKLORE
The use of Rhodiola for medicinal purposes dates back to the time of the Greek physician, Dioscorides, who documented its use in 77 C.E. In his medical text De Materia Medica, he referred to it as 'rodia riza', Linnaeus eventually extrapolated its Latin binomial from this term.2 It has been used in folk medicine for more than a thousand years with some of its first recorded uses being in Tibet and China.6 It was originally utilized in Tibet, where at least 30 different Rhodiola species are found and where some of the towns boast an altitude of over 10,000 feet.9 Villagers in the mountainous regions of Siberia gift a bouquet of rhodiola root as a good luck charm to couples before their marriage ceremony with wishes of fertility and happy children.2 In Asia, a tea of rhodiola was considered to be helpful, especially in winter months.2
The harvesting and preparation of rhodiola, referred to as 'golden root,' was a well-kept family secret in these regions for generations. In Siberia it was taken, in secret to the Caucasian Mountains where it was traded for a variety of goods including wine and honey. In ancient times, emperors from China used the rhodiola from Siberia for medicinal purposes.2 In TCM, this root was considered to be a plant which nourished chi (energy or vital force) and encouraged circulation.6
This adaptogenic herb has been used as folk medicine for centuries used in Russia, Scandinavia, and in many other countries.2 Rhodiola was employed in Russia to boost the stamina of Olympic athletes and was even taken by cosmonauts to support physical and mental performance.9 The scientific literature from Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Iceland has supported the efficacy of rhodiola as far back as 1725 and continues to do so.2 Since 1960, more than 180 research studies have investigated rhodiola's properties particularly as an adaptogen.2However, it has only become popular recently in the West, possibly due to the fact that historically, most of the studies were published in languages other than English.
FLAVOR NOTES AND ENERGETICS
Sweet and slightly bitter taste. Energetically cold to slightly warm.6,10
Its flavor is sweet and bitter, and energetically it is believed to be a cold herb. However, it is sometimes listed as 'slightly warm,' and some deliberation on this is most likely related to the variance in species similar to the variance in the energetics of various types of ginseng.
USES AND PREPARATIONS
Dried root as a tea, tincture, or powdered and encapsulated.
Fresh root as a tea or tincture.
Monoterpene alcohols and their glycosides, cyanogenic glycosides, aryl glycosides, phenylethanoids, phenylpropanoids and their glycosides, flavonoids, flavonlignans, proanthocyanidins and gallic acid derivatives.4
Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov on September 25, 2014.
- Brown R., Gerbarg P, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview HerbalGram. 2002; 56:40-52 American Botanical Council; Austin, TX. Accessed on September 29, 2014.
- New England Wild Flower Society website. Framingham, MA Accessed at: https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/rhodiola/rosea/ on October 1, 2014.
- Panossian, A., Wikman, G., & Sarris, J. (2010). Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): Traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 481-493.
- Fu, Kunjun; Ohba, Hideaki; Gilbert, Michael G., "Rhodiola", Flora of China 8, p. 251, Accessed at: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=128370 on September 30, 2014.
- Sheng Nong website. Accessed at:http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/herbal/hongjingtian.html on October 1, 2014.
- Vermont Fish and Wildlife. Vermont Threatened and Endangered Species Rule. Accessed on October 1, 2014.
- Eggli, U. Newton L. (2004), Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names, Springer-Verlag, p. 203
- AARGO website. Alberta Rhodiola Rosea Growers Organization. Rhodiola rosea. Accessed at: http://arrgo.ca/articles on October 1, 2014.
- Brand, E., & Wiseman, N. (2008). Concise Chinese Materia Medica. Paradigm Publications. Accessed at: http://www.goldenneedleonline.com/library/2010/11/12/rhodiola/ on September 30, 2014.
TIBETAN HERBAL MEDICINE. With examples of treating lung diseases using rhodiola and hippophae by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon Accessed at: http://www.itmonline.org/arts/tibherbs.htm