At the forefront of research into Rhodiola rosea were the Russians, who were some of the first to look for an edge in competition through using science and nature. The arctic root was at the forefront of their research, along with a few other adaptogens. The roots were extracted, and put into tablet form as supplements. The energizing and anti-fatigue effects were obvious. They noticed an increase in mental acuity, a loss in recovery time after harsh physical stress, a lack of fatigue and a reduction in altitude sickness through their research. Many of these studies were kept behind closed doors, however. They were meant to enhance exclusively Russian athletes, no one else. Today, these claims have been proven to be true with double blind placebo controlled studies, the gold standard of research, with fascinatingly impressive results.
With the discovery of anabolic steroids and other synthetic bodily hormones, the Russians drifted away from nature and sports, opting for much harsher supplements with more dramatic effects – and side effects. However, with the Cold War following World War 2, which lead to the Space Race, they resumed testing these herbs to supplement cosmonauts facing the most brutal environment: Space. The herb was mixed with other adaptogens, and kept the cosmonauts levelheaded, energized, and reduced mental stress while facing the final frontier.
Despite much effort, no one compound has been attributed to Rhodiola rosea’s astounding abilities. In fact over 140 different compounds have been isolated, as phenols, rosins, rosavins,terpenoids, flavonoids, alkaloids, etc., many of which are unique to specifically the species Rhodiola rosea. These compounds have been shown to be antidepressants, to boost the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system to produce a calm, focused mind, to increase the levels of neurotransmitters within the brain and muscles such as acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin, and to return the body to homeostasis, when frequent stress has torn it apart.