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Latin Name: Rhodiola
Common Name: Rhodiola / Roseroot / Arctic Root / Golden Root
Chinese Name: 紅景天
Pinyin Name: hong jing tian

Rhodiola is a kind of bush that belongs to family Crassulaceae. The root, rhizome or the whole herb is used for medicinal proposes. [8].

Where Does It Grow?
Rhodiola is widely distributed in the northern hemisphere, at high altitudes (3500-5000 meters) of mountainous regions. There are over 90 different species of Rhodiola worldwide, 70 of which can be found in China. Tibet has the greatest number of species (30) and the largest amount grown; other areas of China where rhodiola grows are Yunnan (28 species), Sichuan (26 species), Qinghai, Xinjiang, Gansu, Hebei, Heilongjiang and Jilin. [10].

Because of the variety of species, different Rhodiola may be used in local herbal traditions, depending on the available sources. Commonly used species in China are listed as below: [8, 10]

Scientific Names Chinese Names Productive Areas
Rhodiola crenulata (Hook.f.etThoms.) H.Ohba 寬瓣紅景天 / 圓齒紅景天 / 蘇羅馬保 Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet
Rhodiola sachalinensis A. Bor 高山紅景天 Heilongjiang and Jilin
Rhodiola sacra (Prain ex Hamet.) S. H. Fu 全瓣紅景天 / 紅景天 /掃羅馬爾布 / 參嘎 Tibet and Yunnan
Rhodiola algida (Ledeb) Fisch.et Mey.var.tangutica (Maxim.) S. H. Fu 紅景天 Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan
Rhodiola dumulosa (Franch.) S. H. Fu 鳳尾七 / 鳳尾草 / 霧靈紅景天 Jilin, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Shanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Hubei and Sichuan
Rhodiola kirilowii (Regel.) Maxim. 大株紅景天 / 獅子七 /獅子草 Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan, Shanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Hebei and Xinjiang
Rhodiola henryi (Diels) S. H. Fu 豌豆七 Shanxi, Gansu, Hebei, Hubei and Sichuan
Rhodiola yunnanensis (Franch.) S. H. Fu 豆葉七 Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet
Rhodiola rosea L. 紅景天 / 玫瑰紅景天 Xinjiang, Shanxi and Hebei

In the Pharmacopoeia of People's Republic of China (2005 Edition) - Part I, the recorded species is Rhodiola crenulata (Hook.f.etThoms.) H.Ohba, and the medicinally used part is the dried root and rhizome.
Nature and Flavor
Rhodiola is mild in nature, and sweet and bitter in flavor. It mainly manifests its therapeutic actions in the Lung Meridian and Heart Meridian. [7].
Identified Active Components / Major Chemical Constituents
Rhodiola species contain phenylpropanoids e.g. rosavin, rosin and rosarin; phenylethanol derivatives e.g. salidroside/rhodioloside, tyrosol; flavanoids e.g. rodiolin, rodionin, rodiosin, acetylrodalgin and tricin; monoterpernes e.g. rosiridol and rosaridin; triterpenes e.g. daucosterol and beta-sitosterol; phenolic acids e.g. chlorogenic, hydroxycinnamic and gallic acids; tannins, essential amino acids and minerals. Unique active ingredients like p-tryosol, salidroside, rosavin, pyridrde, rhodiosin and rhodionin are found in most of the Rhodiola species, but vary in the amounts, and so these ingredients are now regarded as the standards for quality evaluation. [9].
Drug actions in TCM
Replenish qi (vital energy), activate blood circulation, unblock blood vessels and smooth asthmatic conditions. [7].
Traditional Uses in TCM
Rhodiola has been used as a folk tonic for over a thousand years; people like to decoct it or soak it in wine, to alleviate physical fatigue and protect against winter coldness in mountainous regions. It has a much earlier tradition in Tibetan medicine; many Tibetan classics have recorded this herb which is used to treat pneumonia, coughing up blood, spitting blood and vaginal secretions in women.

According to TCM understanding, Rhodiola can replenish qi (vital energy), clear the lung system, nourish the heart system, enhance mental functioning, stop bleeding, and dissipate swelling and bruises. Clinically, it is indicated for conditions like general weakness after major illness, chest pain or angina, paralysis caused by stroke, fatigue, shortness of breath, traumatic injuries, and neurosis in addition to high altitude sickness. [8]

Pharmacological Actions

Rhodiola is widely known as an adaptogen, due to its ability to increase resistance against a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors and to help the body to recover homeostasis. Below details research carried out on Rhodiola crenulata.

1. Anti-oxidation
  The ethanolic extracts of Rhodiola crenulata were added to five different types of edible oils (rapeseed oil, peanut oil, butter oil, soya bean oil and lard). The peroxide value (POV) of these oils was measured at different periods of time (24, 48, 72, 128 and 168 hours). It was found that ethanolic extracts of Rhodiola crenulata has a significant anti-oxidative effect on the oils especially butter oil and lard. [1]
  Kunming mice and Wistar rats were used to test the anti-oxidation effect of the butanolic extracts of Rhodiola crenulata. Different concentrations of butanolic extract of Rhodiola crenulata (1, 3, 12.5 and 50ug/ml) inhibit liver microsome peroxidation in the Wistar rat model induced by FeS04/Cys, the inhibition is dose-dependent. 12.5ug/ml butanolic extract of Rhodiola crenulata has a similar anti-oxidation effect to the same concentration of vitamin E. The extract can also inhibit haemolysis caused by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and scavenge DPPH free radicals. This demonstrated the anti-oxidation effect of the Rhodiola crenulata extracts. [2]
2. Anti-hypoxia and Anti-fatigue
  160 mice were divided into 4 groups which consist of 3 different concentrations of Rhodiola crenulata extract (0.22g/kg, 0.45g/kg and 1.35g/kg) and a control group. The extract was orally administrated once daily for 30 days. After 30 days, all mice were evaluated in different tests, (1) an anti-hypoxic test, (2) a sodium nitrite toxicity test, (3) an acute hypoxic ischemic test, and (4) a blood lactic acid test. Results showed that different concentrations of Rhodiola crenulata extract used in the study can significantly extend the survival time of mice due to the sodium nitrite toxication when compared with the control group (p<0.05). The 0.45g/kg treatment group can significantly prolong the survival time of the mice in the hypoxic and ischemic conditions and it can also significantly reduce the accumulation of blood lactic acid in mice after exercise (p<0.05). This concluded that Rhodiola crenulata has an anti-hypoxia and anti-fatigue effect. [3]
3. Anti-radiation
  80 female Kunming mice were divided into three treatment groups and a control group. The dosage of Rhodiola crenulata used in the treatment groups were 10, 20 and 50 ml/kg, and it was administrated once daily for 38 days. All the mice were exposed to the radiation 5GyCo60-gramma ray on day 24 of the study. Blood samples were collected from their tails on day 3 and 14 pre- and post-radiation. The total white blood cell counts were compared between the treatment groups and the control group. In addition, number of micronucleus was counted in a total of 1000 polychromatic erythrocytes (PCE). DNA content in the bone marrow cells was determined by ELISA at the absorbance of 260nm. Results indicated that the white blood cell count in all treatment groups is higher than that in the control group in which 20 and 50 ml/kg treatment groups showed a significant difference. The number of micronucleated PCE in the 20 and 50ml/kg treatment groups is significantly lower when compared to the control group. DNA content in all treatment groups is higher when compared with the control group; it showed a significant difference in the 50ml/kg treatment group. [4]

4. Effect on hemotoxicity
  Study was conducted to evaluate the effect of Rhodiola crenulata on hemotoxicity induced by benzene poisoning in rats. Adult female rats were orally treated with 1600mg/kg benzene for 3 weeks. Three weeks later, they were then administrated with Rhodiola crenulata (1000mg/kg, 2000mg/kg and 4000mg/kg) for 5 weeks. Blood count, bone marrow, ultrastructure of bone marrow, nucleated polychromatic erythrocytes (PCE), serum SOD and MDA were observed. It demonstrated that Rhodiola crenulata could significantly increase the white blood cell count, bone marrow cell level and reduce nucleated PCE (p<0.01). It concluded that Rhodiola crenulata could increase the white blood cell count in rats with hemotoxicity induced by benzene. [5]
5. Regulation of blood glucose level (clinical study)
  Twenty-seven patients with type 2 diabetes were treated with Rhodiola crenulata tea for 24 months as an adjunctive use in their regular treatment. The efficacy was evaluated based on the personal feeling of the patients and the fasting blood glucose level by using 7.8mmol/L as normal level. Regular treatment can be stopped in 24 patients after 24 month. The fasting blood glucose level was 7.5+/-0.9 and 6.8+/-1.2mmol/L after 12 months and 24 months respectively. [6]

Administration and Dosage
3-9g each time for decoction, or powdered for topical use. [8]
1. 盧永昌、林鵬程、康吉森。大花紅景天抗氧化作用的研究。中國油脂 30(6): 40-41 (2005)
2. 孫芳雲、王金華、杜冠華、等。大花紅景天的抗氧化性溶血作用研究。中藥藥理與臨床 22: 118-120 (2006)
3. 陳玉滿、陳江、毛光明、等。大花紅景天的抗氧化作用的研究。浙江預防醫學 19(1): 92-93 (2007)
4. 仝國輝、譚壯生、楊慶。大花紅景天的抗輻射損傷作用。衛生毒理學雜誌 18(3): 183-184 (2004)
5. 朱光華、王致、郝一彬、等。大花紅景天對苯血液毒性干預的探討。中國職業醫學 33(1):15-18 (2006)
6. 范羽豐、譚蓉、江鈴。大花紅景天以生活方式對二十七例二型糖尿病患者的治療評價。中國現代葯物應用 1(6): 10-11 (2007)
7. Pharmacopoeia of People's Republic of China (2005 Edition) – Part I
8. Herbology of China
9. Preliminary Discussion on Medicinal Use of Rhodiola and its enlisted in Pharmacopoeia of PRC.
10. Bao Wenfang et al (edited), The Anti-fatigue Effect of Rhodiola Plant, People's Military Medical Press, 2004.