Rhodiola Rosea Cardioprotective Effects

By evaluating a collection of double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled studies and initial animal studies, Dr. Zakir Ramazanov, Dr. Richard Brown, and Dr. Patricia Gerbarg discovered specific rhodiola benefits to supplementing one’s diet with a pure rhodiola rosea extract supplement. This section of Rhodiola Rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview addresses the compelling research behind Rhodiola Rosea and its potential cardioprotective effects.



Rhodiola Rosea’s Cardioprotective Effects

Cardioprotective effects of Rhodiola rosea include: prevention of stress-induced cardiac damage,80,81,84 decreased myocardial catecholamines and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels; and reduced adrenal catecholamine release80,81 (see diagram). Furthermore, Rhodiola rosea activation of mu-opiate receptors in heart muscle prevented reperfusion arrhythmias in animal hearts. This effect could be blocked by naloxone injection (known to inhibit mu-opiate receptors), thus confirming that the anti-arrhythmic effect of Rhodiola rosea is associated with the mu-opiate receptors in myocardial (heart) muscle.84

Rhodiola Rosea Benefits the Heart During Emotional and Physical Stress

How Rhodiola Rosea Benefits the Heart During Emotional and Physical Stress

In a series of joint Swedish and Russian double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled studies,85 10 healthy but sedentary men (ages 20-31 years) were evaluated. Twenty percent of the subjects had average physical work capacity as measured by Power Work Capacity (PWC-170) and 80 percent had below-average PWC-170, indicating a low level of physical training (PWC-170 is a calculation based on the amount of work performed by a man if his heart rate reaches 170 beats per minute, bpm).

A sequence of complex 1- to 7-day trials compared the effects of an adaptogen formula, a mixture of mono- and polyphenolic adaptogens (MMPA). Each tablet contained the following ingredients: 3 mg rhodioloside from Rhodiola rosea root extract, 50 mg; 3 mg total sum of isofraxidine-, syringine-, and syringaresinoie-glycosides from eleuthero root extract, 100 mg; and 4 mg schizandrine and gamma-schizandrine from schisandra (Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill., Lamiaceae) fruit extract, 150 mg.

During the 7-day adaptogen trial, subjects were given 3 capsules (containing a total of 150 mg Rhodiola rosea) twice a day on days 1-3; 4 capsules (200 mg Rhodiola rosea) twice a day on days 4-6, and 4 capsules once on day 7. The mean increase in physical work capacity was 28 percent with dosed physical loads in subjects treated with the adaptogen formula. Thus, sedentary subjects given the adaptogen were able to perform in the lower level of trained athletes without any exercise training. Their heart rate variability and inotropic (strength of heart muscle contractility) functions improved.

Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic inputs to the heart were enhanced such that the heart showed increased reserves under stress of greater intensity. The autonomic nervous system controls automatic or involuntary functions of the body. It has two components: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nerves (see Diagram 2). The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight-or-flight” system that helps the organism respond to stress (e.g., by increasing heart rate, respiratory rate, and muscle tone). The parasympathetic nervous system conserves and restores energy (e.g., by slowing the heart rate, respiratory rate, and metabolism).

By enhancing the functions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, Rhodiola rosea enables the organism to put out more energy during stress while at the same time maintaining higher energy reserves. One of the challenges presented by research on a multi-ingredient formula is that it is not usually possible to attribute the results to the activity of any one single herbal component. However, the results of this study are consistent with results of other research conducted solely on Rhodiola rosea monopreparations.

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