Also called Roseroot, Goldenroot, or Arctic Root, it is a perennial sedum with a thick rhizome, succulent leaves, and yellow, fragrant flowers. It grows in sandy or rocky, slightly acidic soil at high altitudes in the sub-arctic areas of Europe, Asia, Eastern Siberia, Canada, Greenland, and Scandinavia. At maturity, it reaches a height of 12 to 30 inches. There are a few dozen Rhodiola species, but Rhodiola Rosea is unique with regards to its chemical composition and medicinal value. In the wild state, it can take up to 25 years to mature, but when cultivated it only takes 4-5 years before it becomes commercially useful. The plant is well known and heavily used in Russia and Scandinavia. The highest quality plants come from the Altai Mountains in Siberia, where it is harvested primarily from wild growth.
It can be cultivated at lower altitudes (but still at high latitudes) and there are Rhodiola farms in Scandinavia, Russia, and Canada. Here in Alaska, we are developing the best cultivation practices with research support from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of California Irvine.
Rhodiola Rosea (Sedum Rosea) - The Plant
Rhodiola Rosea has been used in China and Tibet as early as 2697 BC. Described by the Greek physician Dioscorides 2000 years ago, it was named after the rose-like odor of the freshly cut root. The Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus documented its use as a medicinal in the 1700s. It has been used in Sweden and Russia for centuries and most of the research has been published there. Its less potent sister species (R. integrifolia) has been used for medicinal purposes by the Alaskan Athabascan, Yupik, and Inupiat peoples for centuries.
After WWII, the Russians began searching for a botanical product that would boost Soviet competiveness in their athletes and in military troops. After searching through hundreds of options, they settled on Rhodiola Rosea. In 1969, the Russian Ministry of Health began recommending it for its physical and mental performance enhancement effects. In the 1980s the Russian Academy of Sciences discovered the 4 major active chemicals and called them adaptogens. Moscows Institute for Space Medicine also began using it in their cosmonauts in the 1990s. Currently is it heavily used by many Russians and other northern peoples for these and other beneficial effects. More recently it has been used in modern psychiatry for its anti-depressant effects.
- This is a list of its most commonly believed beneficial effects, primarily from its ADAPTOGEN properties:
- enhanced physical endurance and performance
- decreases effects of stress on the body
- counters high altitude sickness
- restorative female and male reproductive functions
It should be noted that there is no known toxicity.