The amazing Rhodiola, my favourite herb.

Posted by Mark Hamilton on

Rhodiola Rosea, is very possibly my favourite herb ever. I was lucky enough, many years ago to go to a talk on Rhodiola in London by a Russian Expert who had been studying the herb for absolutely years. It was an invite only affair for industry professionals and the American company I was working for at the time had sponsored the talk. It didn’t start off to well for the professor as I don’t think he understood things like political correctness and talking around sensitive issues. His opening statement after introducing himself, for example, was “We force fed three rats in a laboratory”! To which many of the audience basically got up and left in disgust.

Now I am against animal testing as much as anyone, however what he said next hooked me in. “we gave rat X a placebo, rat Y Ephedrine (the worlds best fatburner at the time) and Rat Z Rhodiola. The professor then showed us some slide of the rats after 12 weeks and this is what I saw.

Rat X (Placebo rat) – the poor little thing looked like it had been pumped up with a bicycle pump, it could hardly get it’s Rat feet on the ground.

Rat Y (the Ephedrine Rat) – was incredible really as it was about half the size of Rat X. So the fat burning effects of Ephedrine obviously worked, however, before you go rushing to buy ephedrine the side effects are very dangerous and it’s illegal to buy. Definitely keep away from Ephedrine.

Rat Z (Rhodiola Rat) – The rhodiola rat looked like it had been to a Rat Gym for 12 weeks, it was unreel compared to the previous 2 slides. It was then I decided I needed to know more about this incredible Herb.

The professor then went to talk about more technical stuff, like how Rhodiola seemed to lower production of the stress hormone Cortisol, elevate our happy chemicals such as serotonin, help adrenal function massively in the body, hence supporting conditions like anxiety and even used in Russia folklaw as a wedding present to increase the libido of both the husband and wife. This stuff looked epic.


The Meal.

After the lecture the professor was hungry so my work college and myself took him to a local restaurant for a meal. I was fascinated so started to ask him loads of questions. What he told me was fascinating. Prior to being a professor he was a Major in the Russian Army fighting on the front line. He explained that most people in tiny England have no concept of the sheer size of the Russian Empire. He explained that whilst on the front line every month the soldiers received packages from back home, and different areas would send different packages. He explained that he notices a group of men from Siberia(I think it was) would get sent this herb they used to make into a tea. He also noticed that considering the appalling conditions, sniper attacks, freezing conditions, these guys were always joking and laughing.

He decided to find out what these guys were drinking, as everyone else seemed to be hooked on Vodka and manically depressed. Suicide was a very common thing on the front line.They explained it was a herb called Rhodiola and it made them feel good!

When he left the military he decided to research this herb which lead him to be one of the leading authorities on it at that time.

He explained how the Russian athletes used to supplement with it and when the iron curtain went down and the Americans found out, they went all out to do clinical trials on the herb. They even did one study involving American football college high school kids where the compared results against anabolic steroids over 12 weeks. Yes they actually administered anabolic steroids to high school kids for a trial – only in America. The results on this were however fascinating with the Rhodiola, which was take with two other natural supplements, out performed anabolic steroids in one rep max, 60 yard dash, standing long jump, muscle and fat ratio. Fascinating stuff.

They even found it helped with premature ejaculation in men, this is how researched this herb has been.

I remember even the daily mail had a massive page on how Rhodiola was the new herbal Viagra! Which it isn’t by the way. The article showed a proud truck driver holding up a pot of Rhodiola as the ultimate sexual alpha male and his poor wife in the background with a look on her face says, please just get me out of here. However there is some scientific evidence to suggest Rhodiola would be able to help with this particular situation.

For centuries rhodiola has been prized for its virtues as a powerful stimulant and has been a major ingredient inmanyfolk-lorelovepotions. Research has shown that rhodiola can normalize prostate fluid and increase 17-ketosteroids in the urine (a key indicator of male hormone production) in men with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Positive results from studies have also been shown in improving both primary and secondary amenorrhea in women. It would seem that that the benefits of rhodiola are not gender biased and that performance improvements are likely in women with sex gland dysfunction.


Rhodiola has also been shown to help the body adapt to various stressors, whether they are physical, mental or environmental. Rhodiola is a superior plant and is generally regarded as harmless whilst exerting profound supportive effects. Given that we are basically a primitive organism struggling to adapt to a modern high technological environment, now more than ever adaptogens offer protection against the negative effects of stress.

Not only can Rhodiola help with stress and anxiety but it has shown some fantastic positive evidence to suggest it may be able to combat depression. Depression is a consequence of insufficient serotonin levels in the body brought about by various stimuli. Active compounds found within rhodiola (rosavin and salidroside) improve the passage of serotonin precursors through the blood-brain barrier. Research has also shown rhodiola to help preserve serotonin by inhibiting the activity of COMT (catechol-o-methyl transferase.) Rhodiola can increase serotonin by 30% and decrease COMT by up to 60%.

I speak more about depression with people than any other health issue, which is worrying.

Depression can be due to low levels of serotonin. Prozac effectively puts a cork on the cell
to stop serotonin leaking. Rhodiola effects a balancing action on serotonin by enhancing the production, distribution and up nutrients essential for the production of serotonin in the brain.

By decreasing the release of catecholamines and corticosteroids triggered during the stress response, rhodiola has a positive effect on preventing cardiac damage. Rhodiola’s support of the adrenal glands may also explain its ability to help normalize blood sugar, potassium levels and blood pressure reducing risk factors in heart disease.

When the body is placed in a stressful situation the immune system becomes suppressed in order for the body to use that energy to fuel other responses in the fight or flight mode. By helping the body to resist stress rhodiola aids in immune system support. Stress has also been shown to reduce natural killer cell activity. Rhodiola has been found in studies to help to increase the activity of natural killer cells. Rhodiola has also demonstrated potent antioxidant capabilities, with a strong anti-peroxidation effect on lipid membranes. Thus rhodiola is an effective protector against mutagenic changes and supports cell structures from the harmful effects of free radicals.

For those lifting weights Rhodiola has been shown to increase the levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and creatine phosphate in muscle tissue. The level of fatty acids in the blood has also been shown to increase with the use of rhodiola. Some research shows that lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine increase the mental capacity of the brain. Because of rhodiola’s ability to regulate the release of these hormones, improved mental performance has been noted.

Stress, adrenal support, fatigue, sports performance, depression, cardiovascular maintenance, colds and infections, cellular health, learning and memory, blood sugar control, amenorrhea, male/female sexual dysfunction, adjunct treatment with chemotherapy, liver protection, antioxidant, protection against gum disease, improving auditory function.

So in a nutshell this is why Rhodiola hs become my favourite herb.

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