What is Rhodiola rosea?

The Rhodiola species is composed of mainly Rhodiola rosea along with Rhodiola imbricata, Rhodiola algida, and Rhodiola crenulata. Generally, these herbs are known for their adaptogenic (anti-stress) properties.

However, they also possess numerous other cognitive and physical benefits that are integral to medicine in parts of Eastern Asia. Extracts from these herbs are widely used in various health applications.

Health Benefits of Rhodiola rosea

1) Rhodiola rosea Has Antioxidant Properties

If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Free radicals thus adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of human diseases (R).

Salidroside, a Rhodiola rosea extract, exerts its neuroprotective effect against brain ischemia through antioxidant mechanisms and activation of the associated Nrf2 pathway (R).

Nrf2 can protect cells and tissues from a variety of toxicants and carcinogens by increasing the expression of a number of cytoprotective genes (R).

A major mechanism in the cellular defense against oxidative stress is activation of the Nrf2-antioxidant response element signaling pathway, which controls the expression of genes whose protein products are involved in the detoxication and elimination of reactive oxidants by enhancing cellular antioxidant capacity (R).

2) Rhodiola rosea Has Adaptogenic (Anti-stress) Properties

Adaptogen properties have been mainly attributed to salidroside’s, one of the bioactive compounds present in the standardized extracts of Rhodiola rosea (R).

Rhodiola exerts an anti-stress effect in rats subjected to stress by balancing the HPA axis, and possibly by reducing the expression of c-Fos in the hypothalamus (R).

Increased tolerance to stress induced by adaptogen is associated with its stimulation of expression of Hsp70 and Hsp72, which is known as a mediator of stress responses involved in repairing proteins during physical load (R).

3) Rhodiola rosea is an Anti-microbial

Rhodiola rosea supplementation has the potential to protect athletes from exercise-induced susceptibility to infections by reducing virus replication (R).

Rhodiola imbricata induces the expression of the innate immune response genes (RIG-I and MDA5) in response to infection with dengue virus.  This leads to the expression of IFN-α/β, which has antiviral functions (R).

Salidrosides were shown to be an active compound responsible for preventing acne bacteria biofilm formation (R).

Bacteria form dense surface-associated communities known as biofilms that are central to their persistence and how they affect us (R).

4) Rhodiola rosea Improves Immune System Response

Both Th1 cytokine levels were significantly higher after daily treatment with the Rhodiola extract (R).

Th1 cells produce inflammatory cytokines which induce cell-mediated immune responses, while Th2 cells secrete cytokines to induce humoral or allergic responses (R).

In septic mice, Rhodiola rosea both suppressed T lymphocyte cell death and promoted host immunity (R).

Pretreatment with Rhodiola extract increased the survival of septic mice (R).

5) Rhodiola rosea Suppresses Tumor Growth

Rhodiola protects tissues against free radicals and toxins capable of harming DNA and causing cancer (R).

One important property of Rhodiola extracts is their ability to inhibit angiogenesis (R).

Angiogenesis, though a vital part of growth and development, can support the proliferation of malignant cell growth (R).

6) Rhodiola rosea Has Antidepressant Properties

Rhodiola rosea demonstrates multi-target effects on various levels of the regulation of cell response to stress, affecting various components of the neuroendocrine (NPY), neurotransmitter receptor and molecular networks associated with possible beneficial effects on mood (R).

Rhodioloside decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1b and IL-6 levels and normalized neurotransmitters in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of rats (R).

These results confirmed the antidepressant-like effect of rhodioloside, which might be primarily based on its stimulation of neurotransmitters and its anti-inflammatory effect (R).

7) Rhodiola crenulata Regulates Glycogen and Lipid (fat) Metabolism

Rhodiola crenulata root extract (RCE) regulates glucose creation by the liver through activation of AMPK (R).

Liver AMPK activation suppresses anabolic (growth) metabolism, including cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis, and increases fatty acid oxidation by regulating gene expression (R).

The fat reducing effect of RCE was verified by the decreased expression levels of genes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis and increased fatty acid β-oxidation in cells (R).

RCE inhibited protein and gene expression of fat-producing genes in the rat liver (R).

8) Rhodiola and Salidrosides Are Neuroprotective

Rhodiola (p-tyrosol) increased survival, reduced neuronal damage in the hippocampus, and reduced lipid peroxidation in brain tissue in an animal model of neurodegenerative disease (R).

Salidrosides protected against amyloid-β (found in Alzheimer’s) induced neurotoxicity in four fly models of Alzheimer’s (R).

The neuroprotective effect of Salidroside was associated with stimulation of phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling (R).

9) Rhodiola rosea Abates Inflammatory Response

Treatment with Rhodiola rosea suppressed proinflammatory cytokines, decreasing both IFNy production by T cells and IL-1 by various blood cell types, but did not decrease the T cell immune response (R).

Salidrosides exerted anti-inflammatory action by inhibiting JAK2STAT3 pathway and suppressing STAT3 gene expression (R).

10) Rhodiola rosea Possesses Cardioprotective Properties and Suppresses Atrial Fibrillation

Salidrosides have cardioprotective properties in animals by activating AMPK (R).

Rhodiola rosea restricts ion flow across neuro-potassium channels with the purpose of preventing erratic arrhythmic neurological stimulations in the heart (R).

Activation of mu-opiate receptors in heart muscle prevented reperfusion arrhythmias in animal hearts (R).

The beneficial electrophysiological effect of Rhodiola may be related to increased transcription of Kv1.5, KvLQT1 (these genes are associated with the flow of ions across a potassium voltage-gated channel) and activation of PI3K/AKT signaling (R).

11) Rhodiola rosea Reduces Symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction

Salidrosides possesses potent anti-oxidative properties and protects against dopaminergic neuronal death (R).

Rhodiola rosea extract containing capsules increased wakefulness and cognitive performance by induction of increases of delta and theta (measures of brain activity) waves during mental challenges (R).

12) Rhodiola rosea Extract Prevents Pulmonary Fibrosis

Salidrosides inhibited NF-κB while activating Nrf2 -antioxidant signaling in animal lungs. This leads to a prevention of oxidative stress damage in lungs (R).

Salidroside’s protective effects against fibrotic lung injuries are correlated to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antifibrotic properties (R).

13) Rhodiola Helps Reduce Pain

Rhodiola rosea had pain inhibiting activity in various pain models (R).

Potential Risks

  • Rhodiola rosea inhibits the metabolic capacity of CYP2C9 in humans (important in the oxidation of xenobiotic and endogenous compounds) (R).


  • R rosea has a very low level of toxicity. The equivalent dosage in a 70-kg man would be about 235 grams. Because the usual clinical doses are 200 to 600 mg/d, there is a huge margin of safety.

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