Rhodiola rosea has long been known as a potent adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural plant substances that increase the body’s non-specific resistance and normalise the functions of the body. When a stressful situation occurs, consuming adaptogens generates a degree of generalised adaptation (or non-specific resistance) that allows our physiology to handle the stressful situation in a more resourceful manner. It is believed that adaptogens work by increasing the ability of cells to manufacture and use cell fuel more efficiently.
Since Rhodiola rosea administration appears to impact central monoamine levels, it might also provide benefits and be the adaptogen of choice in clinical conditions characterised by an imbalance of central nervous system monoamines. This is consistent with Russian claims for improvements in depression and schizophrenia. It also suggests that research in areas such as seasonal affective disorder, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome, among others, is warranted.
There have also been claims that this plant has great utility as a therapy in asthenic conditions (decline in work performance, sleep disturbances, poor appetite, irritability, hypertension, headaches, and fatigue) developing subsequent to intense physical or intellectual strain, influenza and other viral exposures, and other illness. Two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of the standardised extract of Rhodiola rosea root (SHR-5) provide a degree of support for these claimed adaptogenic properties.