A new piece of research on the arctic-grown Rhodiola rosea root has just been published in the Elsevier publication Free Radical Biology & Medicine ( 2009 Sep 1;47(5):577-84), done by the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California at Irvine. It is quite interesting work because it has been shown that there is protection developed for human cells cultured in the laboratory against oxidative stress -- this comes with strong anti-aging possibilities.
Generally, when an herb or nutrient acts on cells this way, it is through activation of antioxidant defenses. In this case, however, there was no such activation. Instead, the herb enhances oxidative stress protection to the human cells via another method, not determined in this research and still considered somewhat of a mystery. More work is ongoing in this laboratory.
The authors state that Rhodiola rosea root has been long used in traditional medical systems in Europe and Asia as an adaptogen to increase an organism's resistance to physical stress. Recent research has demonstrated its ability to improve mental and physical stamina, to improve mood, and to help alleviate high-altitude sickness. On the "mood uplift" front, many holistic psychiatrists now recommend Rhodiola much more frequently than St. Johns Wort to their patients to support mild-to-moderate depression, primarily because of mixed reviews and drug interactions with SJW. Rhodiola does not appear to have any of these drug interactions. (It is noted that Rhodiola is not to be used by the biopolar).
Previously this same laboratory at UCI found that R. rosea extends the life span of the fruit fly. In this new research, scientists found that R. rosea supplementation could protect cultured cells against ultraviolet light and even the toxin paraquat. These results suggest that more research is needed in order to determine the method of action of this mysterious herb, used for nearly 1,000 years, and to better understand its protection against oxidative stress and what could prove to be a significant anti-aging benefit to humans.
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