Rhodiola rosea

For a review of the botanical Rhodiola rosea, we recommend “Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview,” published in HerbalGram 2002;56:40-52 (American Botanical Council).

Known as a medicinal botanical for at least 2000 years, Rhodiola rosea derives from a plant typically found at high elevations in Asia and Europe. Traditionally, the botanical has been used to increase physical endurance, longevity, resistance to altitude sickness, and to treat fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, and nervous system disorders.

Since the 1960s, Rhodiola rosea has found a place in medical and pharmacological texts, especially in Russia and Scandinavia. It’s described as a stimulant to combat fatigue, a remedy for psychiatric and neurological conditions, and a means to relieve fatigue and to increase attention span, memory, and work capacity in healthy individuals.

The authors of the 2002 Herbalgram review include two practicing M.D.s (Richard P. Brown, Assoc. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Patricia L. Gerbarg, Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at New York Medical Center) who have used Rhodiola rosea in treating more than 150 patients with conditions including “depressive syndromes, mental and physical fatigue (secondary to psychiatric and medical conditions), memory loss and cognitive dysfunction from a variety of causes, sexual dysfunction, and menopausal-related disorders.” The authors also advocate additional research to confirm and define the benefits of this botanical for treating depression, disorders of memory and cognition, attention deficit disorder, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disorders (infertility, premenstrual disorder, menopause), sexual dysfunction, and disorders of the stress response system (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and post traumatic stress disorder). They also note continuing interest in studying the herb’s application to sports performance and aviation and space medicine (enhancing physical and mental performance while reducing stress reactions).

Read the full review at:


See also NYBC’s entry for Rhodiola rosea at

Rosavin (Ameriden)

Nutritional supplements for depression: recommendations from an expert on integrative/holistic health

NYBC has been following recent developments in the use of dietary supplements for depression for quite some time now, and we’d like to recommend a recent guide to this topic by Hyla Cass, which appears in her book, Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition.

Dr. Cass, a practicing physician and an expert on integrative (“holistic”) health, devotes a chapter of her 2007 book to depression. The core elements of her recommendations are the B vitamins, Folate, Omega-3 fatty acids, Calcium, and Vitamin D (especially in winter). She also discusses SAMe, a natural mood enhancer essential for the manufacture of neurotransmitters (like serotonin), and two botanicals that have a history of use as anti-depressants, St. Johns Wort and Rhodiola.

Dr. Cass’ account is particularly good at reviewing the role of neurotransmitters in depression, and explaining how supplements and nutrition have an impact on them. For example, tryptophan, eaten together with carbohydrates, will raise levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy and calm and helps you sleep well. The amino acid 5-HTP, meanwhile, can also help the brain produce more serotonin, though unlike tryptophan it does not need the carbs for it to enter the brain.

Anti-depressant prescriptions, as Dr. Cass notes, are among the top sellers among US pharmaceuticals, with 60 million prescriptions written per year at a cost of $10 billion. And while “antidepressants may be enormously helpful, even life-saving for some people,” she continues, “they are often overprescribed, at too high a dose, over too long a time, and often before a good medical evaluation has been done.” (p. 117) Hence her timely guide to using supplements to help maintain the “nutritional balance necessary for good mental health,” or to create “neurotransmitter balance in depression.”

Reference: Hyla Cass, M.D. “Prescriptions for Psychological Health,” in Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition. (Basic Health Publications, 2007)

See also the NYBC entries on supplements mentioned above:




Rosavin (Rhodiola)

B Vitamin Complex (B-right)

Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids)

Rhodiola for Depression

Andrew Weill reports on studies suggesting that Rosavin, made from Rhodiola rosea, may be helpful in sustaining mood.


Herb Reduces Depression, May Extend Life

Rhodiola rosea is not a widely known botanical remedy, but perhaps it should be. Several recent studies have revealed that the herbal extract of this yellow-flowered, Arctic mountain plant may have multiple health benefits. A study published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, reporting on people with mild-to-moderate depression, showed that patients who took a Rhodiola extract known as SHR-5 (sold under the trade name Arctic Root) reported fewer symptoms than those who took a placebo. And a study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine revealed that fruit flies that ate a diet rich with Rhodiola lived an average of 10 percent longer than those that ate three other herbs known for their life-extension properties.

As usual, these modern findings come long after indigenous people have already determined the plant’s value. Russians and Scandinavians have used it for centuries to combat stress and depression.

See also NYBC entry on Rosavin, a Rhodiola rosea extract produced by Ameriden.