Close up of the rhodiola plant

Herb Health: Rhodiola

Native to the cold regions of the world including the arctic, central Asia, Russia, Siberia and Northern Europe, rhodiola rosea is the perfect herb to give us the stamina to get through a cold harsh winter. It is also known as golden root, Arctic root and Aaron’s rod.


It has been used for centuries in Russia and Scandinavia to help cope with the harsh Siberian climate and for combating stress, but it is only relatively recently that rhodiola has been recognised in the UK for its wonderful adaptogenic properties. It is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a remedy for altitude sickness.


Scientists have discovered around 140 active chemical constituents in the rhodiola rosea root, the chief ones being rosavin and rosarin. It also contains an abundance of disease-fighting antioxidants.



Rhodiola is an adaptogen: adaptogens are metabolic regulators that increase the ability of the body to adapt to physical and emotional stress. Rhodiola can help manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression, helping to induce a state of calm, while at the same time improving energy levels.

It can also help insomnia, irritability and restlessness and is particularly good for adrenal fatigue, especially when blended with other herbs such as Siberian ginseng and licorice. Studies also show it can help treat mild-to-moderate depression making it a great alternative if you can’t take St Johns wort because of its potential interactions with other medications.


Research shows that rhodiola alleviates mental fatigue, increases alertness and improves attention span and memory. It has also been shown to increase physical performance and reduce recovery time after exercise. The reason? It increases levels of enzymes and proteins important for muscle recovery and repair.


Rhodiola extract can help support the immune system giving us extra protection against colds and flu and other seasonal ailments. It is thought it enhances the immune system by increasing the levels of natural killer cells in the spleen and stomach.


Rhodiola may help with weight loss by activating the breakdown of stored fat in the body. A recent US study found that rhodiola demonstrated action on monoamine pathways and may have potential benefit in treating obesity.


Rhodiola appears to support and improve thyroid function without causing hyperthyroidism. It may also help to support and regulate the adrenal glands as well as helping to stabilise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.


Very few side effects have been reported, but you should avoid rhodiola if you are pregnant or taking warfarin.