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Rhodola rosa logo on a blue background representing its anti-stress properties.

The Anti-Stress Herb That Also Fights Cancer

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What does Rhodiola rosea actually do, anyway?

Rhodiola rosea (henceforth, “rhodiola”) is a flowering herb whose roots have adaptogenic properties.

In the cold, mountainous regions of Europe and Asia where it grows, it has been used in herbal medicine for centuries to alleviate anxiety, fatigue, and depression.

What does the science say?

Well, let’s just say the science is more advanced than the traditional use:

❝In addition to its multiplex stress-protective activity, Rhodiola rosea extracts have recently demonstrated its anti-aging, anti-inflammation, immunostimulating, DNA repair and anti-cancer effects in different model systems❞

~ Li et al. (2017)

Nor is how it works a mystery, as the same paper explains:

❝Molecular mechanisms of Rhodiola rosea extracts’s action have been studied mainly along with one of its bioactive compounds, salidroside. Both Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside have contrasting molecular mechanisms on cancer and normal physiological functions.

For cancer, Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside inhibit the mTOR pathway and reduce angiogenesis through down-regulation of the expression of HIF-1α/HIF-2α.

For normal physiological functions, Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside activate the mTOR pathway, stimulate paracrine function and promote neovascularization by inhibiting PHD3 and stabilizing HIF-1α proteins in skeletal muscles❞

~ Ibid.

And, as for the question of “do the supplements work?”,

❝In contrast to many natural compounds, salidroside is water-soluble and highly bioavailable via oral administration❞

~ Ibid.

And as to how good it is:

❝Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside can impose cellular and systemic benefits similar to the effect of positive lifestyle interventions to normal physiological functions and for anti-cancer❞

~ Ibid.

Source: Rhodiola rosea: anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention

But that’s not all…

We can’t claim this as a research review if we only cite one paper (even if that paper has 144 citations of its own), and besides, it didn’t cover all the benefits yet!

Let’s first look at the science for the “traditional use” trio of benefits:

When you read those, what are your first thoughts?

Please don’t just take our word for things! Reading even just the abstracts (summaries) at the top of papers is a very good habit to get into, if you don’t have time (or easy access) to read the full text.

Reading the abstracts is also a very good way to know whether to take the time to read the whole paper, or whether it’s better to skip onto a different one.

  • Perhaps you noticed that the paper we cited for anxiety was quite a small study.
    • The fact is, while we found mountains of evidence for rhodiola’s anxiolytic (antianxiety) effects, they were all small and/or animal studies. So we picked a human study and went with it as illustrative.
  • Perhaps you noticed that the paper we cited for fatigue pertained mostly to stress-related fatigue.
    • This, we think, is a feature not a bug. After all, most of us experience fatigue because of the general everything of life, not because we just ran a literal marathon.
  • Perhaps you noticed that the paper we cited for depression said it didn’t work as well as sertraline (a very common pharmaceutical SSRI antidepressant).
    • But, it worked almost as well and it had far fewer adverse effects reported. Bear in mind, the side effects of antidepressants are the reason many people avoid them, or desist in taking them. So rhodiola working almost as well as sertraline for far fewer adverse effects, is quite a big deal!

Bonus features

Rhodiola also putatively offers protection against Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebrovascular disease in general:

Rosenroot (Rhodiola): Potential Applications in Aging-related Diseases

It may also be useful in the management of diabetes (types 1 and 2), but studies so far have only been animal studies, and/or in vitro studies. Here are two examples:

  1. Antihyperglycemic action of rhodiola-aqeous extract in type 1 diabetic rats
  2. Evaluation of Rhodiola crenulata and Rhodiola rosea for management of type 2 diabetes and hypertension

How much to take?

Dosages have varied a lot in studies. However, 120mg/day seems to cover most bases. It also depends on which of rhodiola’s 140 active compounds a particular benefit depends on, though salidroside and rosavin are the top performers.

Where to get it?

As ever, we don’t sell it (or anything else) but here’s an example product on Amazon.

Enjoy!

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