It’s no surprise that plants are the starting point for many, many natural and herbal remedies. But have you ever stopped to think why that is? What’s in them that gives them the juice? In the past few years, science has been able to identify and understand the bioactive compounds found in therapeutic plants. Rhodiola rosea, which can help promote a positive mental state, contains rosin, rosarin, and salidroside. Salidroside, also known as rhodioloside, is the most potent and active compound found in Rhodiola. Research has identified at least 5 ways it may promote good health and have a positive impact on wellbeing. Let’s take a look…
1. Promotes Nerve Health
Recent studies have isolated salidroside from Rhodiola rosea to determine its effects on the nervous system. Much of this research has determined that this bioactive compound positively supports the nervous system. Salidroside extract seems to protect nerves, promote nerve repair, regulate neurotransmitter release in the nervous system, and may prevent premature cell death. Findings also suggest that salidroside has great potential as a therapy against degenerative nervous system conditions, which leads us to… 
2. Protects Against Brain Cell Damage
Salidroside may protect brain cells against degradation. One study found that Rhodiola and salidroside protected neurons from the damaging effects of toxins and stabilized cell function. Although by no means should it be seen as an Alzheimer’s cure or total preventative, one study did report that salidroside might offer some protection against age-related degenerative diseases. Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by a loss in motor, psychological, and cognitive function, is attributed to the build up of beta-amyloid plaque surrounding neurons. In the study, salidroside was applied to cells that were exposed to oxidative stress via beta-amyloid plaque. Protective effects on plaque-related oxidative damage were reported, giving hope for potential therapeutic use. 
3. Supports Skeletal Health
It appears that the protective effects of salidroside extend to bone cell rejuvenation and development. Based on its success as an adaptogen and its ability to protect cells from oxidative damage, researchers tested a salidroside extract on bone formation and maturation. When used as an isolate, salidroside reduced bone loss. Once again, it protected against oxidative damage and slowed premature cell loss.  Although speculative, some feel that these results suggest a potential use as a supplementary approach to degenerative bone diseases.
4. Stress Reduction and Weight Loss
Perhaps the most researched applications for Rhodiola rosea and salidroside is as a stress reducer… which has also been linked to weight loss. The explanation for the connection? Researchers observe that binge eating is a common response to environmental and psychological stress. One study showed salidroside derived from Rhodiola rosea extract helped curb the desire for binge eating. Researchers also noted that stress levels dropped following supplementation, probably due to the lack of binge eating. 
5. Potential Complement to Chemo Side Effects?
Epirubicin, a chemotherapy drug used against breast cancer, has been linked to heart dysfunction and failure. Rhodiola rosea, the source of salidroside, has a history of promoting cardiovascular health. In one study of breast cancer patients, researchers evaluated salidroside for antioxidant properties and cardio-protective potential. The breast cancer patients, who took Rhodiola, along with a contemporary approach, experienced a reduced incidence of drug-induced heart failure.  Although exciting, keep in mind that Rhodiola rosea has not been conclusively shown to treat or prevent any disease, including cancer. Until further research can absolutely confirm the use of Rhodiola in a way that satisfies required protocols, it’s best to keep its potential in perspective.
Supplementing with Salidroside and Rhodiola rosea
Adaptogens like Rhodiola rosea contain a variety of active compounds that seem to offer protection against oxidative stress — the prime cause of aging. Research shows that the most active compound found in Rhodiola rosea, salidroside, may be helpful for protecting the nervous system, brain, and mood. As studies continue, it’s likely that additional uses for salidroside will emerge. Have you supplemented with salidroside or Rhodiola rosea? Please leave a comment and share your experience with us.
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- Palumbo DR, Occhiuto F, Spadaro F, Circosta C. Rhodiola rosea extract protects human cortical neurons against glutamate and hydrogen peroxide-induced cell death through reduction in the accumulation of intracellular calcium. Phytother Res. 2012 Jun;26(6):878-83. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3662. Epub 2011 Nov 15.
- Zhang L, Yu H, Zhao X, Lin X, Tan C, Cao G, Wang Z. Neuroprotective effects of salidroside against beta-amyloid-induced oxidative stress in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells. Neurochem Int. 2010 Nov;57(5):547-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2010.06.021. Epub 2010 Jul 6.
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