The use of Rhodiola for medicinal purposes dates back to the time of the Greek physician, Dioscorides, who documented its use in 77 C.E. In his medical text De Materia Medica, he referred to it as 'rodia riza'; Linnaeus eventually extrapolated its Latin binomial from this term. It has been used in folk medicine for more than a thousand years with some of its first recorded uses being in Tibet and China. It was originally utilized in Tibet, where at least 30 different Rhodiola species are found and where some of the towns boast an altitude of over 10,000 feet. Villagers in the mountainous regions of Siberia gift a bouquet of rhodiola root as a good luck charm to couples before their marriage ceremony with wishes of fertility and happy children. In Asia, a tea of rhodiola was considered to be helpful, especially in winter months.
The harvesting and preparation of rhodiola, referred to as 'golden root,' was a well-kept family secret in these regions for generations. In Siberia it was taken, in secret to the Caucasian Mountains where it was traded for a variety of goods including wine and honey. In ancient times, emperors from China used the rhodiola from Siberia for medicinal purposes. In TCM, this root was considered to be a plant which nourished chi (energy or vital force) and encouraged circulation.*
This adaptogenic herb has been used as folk medicine for centuries used in Russia, Scandinavia, and in many other countries. Rhodiola was employed in Russia to boost the stamina of Olympic athletes and was even taken by cosmonauts to support physical and mental performance. The scientific literature from Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Iceland has supported the efficacy of rhodiola as far back as 1725 and continues to do so. Since 1960, more than 180 research studies have investigated rhodiola's properties particularly as an adaptogen. However, it has only become popular recently in the West, possibly due to the fact that historically, most of the studies were published in languages other than English.*
Flavor Notes And Energetics: Sweet and slightly bitter taste. Energetically cold to slightly warm.
Its flavor is sweet and bitter, and energetically it is believed to be a cold herb. However, it is sometimes listed as 'slightly warm,' and some deliberation on this is most likely related to the variance in species similar to the variance in the energetics of various types of ginseng.*
Herbal Actions: Adaptogenic, astringent*