Roseroot: The Golden Root

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Roseroot is widely known by its botanical name: Rhodiola rosacea. Its nickname is the golden root. It is a succulent that grows only in cold parts of Asia and Europe and has been classified as an adaptogen. The term adaptogen means that roseroot can help with how well your body reacts to stress, fatigue and anxiety. People have been using it to treat those conditions for centuries.

The root part of the plant is where the 140 compounds present in the plant are stored. Linnaeus named it roseroot because of the fragrance of roses that emanates from the cut rootstock.

The Ancient Greeks used roseroot as documented by Dioscorides in his De Materia Medica. The Vikings were fans of the herb as well, because of its strength- and stamina-enhancing properties. Linnaeus considered roseroot valuable for treating hysteria, hernias and headaches.

Folk medicine practitioners heavily used roseroot in Siberia and Scandinavia for centuries. For much of that time, the best places to harvest the plant were kept hidden from outsiders and passed down only within families. The roots were prized and often traded for other goods.

In the mid 20th century, Russian researchers on a Siberian expedition found that roseroot’s positive effects were not limited to humans. The herb protected animals from the effects of cold and stress as well.

Roseroot was heavily studied from the 18th century to the 20th but is still not a widely known herb in much of the West. However, it continues to play a significant role in traditional medicine from Northern Europe along with China and Tibet.

Roseroot flavor profile

Fresh roseroot has a rose-like fragrance accompanied by a mild bitterness.

Health benefits of roseroot

Roseroot contains the following compounds that are responsible for its health-enhancing effects:

  • Flavanoids: Roseroot contains various flavonoids that enable it to fight inflammation.
  • Salidroside: The mental health benefits of roseroot are due in part to the glycoside called salidroside.
  • Rosavin: Along with salidroside, rosavin is the other main active principle in roseroot and is responsible for many of the herb’s benefits.

You can use roseroot to treat or prevent health problems like:

  • Depression: Research on roseroot seems to indicate that it can help to balance brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Imbalanced brain chemicals are believed to be the cause of depression. When compared to prescription antidepressants like Zoloft, roseroot was less potent but it also reduced depression symptoms and did it without causing as many side effects.
  • Mental fatigue: Studies have shown that roseroot improves brain function in fatigued subjects. Roseroot provides stimulation without the subsequent crash that you get from other stimulants like caffeine.
  • Poor physical stamina: Roseroot has been shown to improve exercise performance by causing a decrease in perceived exertion. In other words, it keeps you from feeling how hard you are working.
  • Stress: Roseroot has been found to decrease the body’s secretion of cortisol, commonly called the stress hormone.

Common uses

In the US, most roseroot is sold in the form of dry powder made from dried and ground roots, liquid extract, and capsules. A more traditional way to consume it is in the form of a tea. Alternatively, you can make a tincture with the powdered roots using vodka. Even though it is slightly bitter, you can blend roseroot into other beverages such as smoothies without it overwhelming the flavors.