Rhodiola Extracts Have Positive Benefits In Treating Bulimia

A cup of Golden Rod (Rhodiola) tea in a clear glass tea cup.
A Cup Of Golden Rod Tea. Copyright: kostrez / 123RF Stock Photo

The little known rockery plant in the UK, Rhodiola rosea L.  (a.k.a. Golden Root, Aaron’s Rod) produces an extract that has recently been found in an ‘in vivo’ rat model to have potential benefit in stress related bulimic disorders. When plant extracts were fed to rats it resulted in a ‘significant’ decrease in the period for bulimia.

Chemical Componentry In Rhodiola 

The active agents, called salidrosides (derivatives of p-tyrosol glucoside) and cinnamon alcohol glycosides might be the active principles behind the effectiveness of this plant extract. Special attention could be paid to rosavidin, a cinnamyl-O-(6′-O-L-arbonosyl)-D-glucoside and to the anthraglycosides and tripterpenes to be found too.  

Studies On Rhodiola

Extracts from the plant are frequently being used for treating stress in Asian medicine and there is an ongoing study at the University of Vienna investigating these benefits. This human intervention study is assessing the treatment of anxiety, depression and stress. The study group is apparently made up of police officers and medical professionals who have been diagnosed with stress and ‘burn out’. Its pharmacological properties are based on its ability to modulate the activation of components involved in the complex stress-response system.

The plant itself has been known from the 18th Century in Russia, France and Scandinavia as an effective herbal for treating stress related disorders. The peoples of Siberia and Mongolia were said to take the plant to reduce tiredness and improve energy levels.  A number of treatises discuss its use (Pharmacopée Française, 1974; Swedish Pharmacopoeia, 1775; Steinegger-Hänsel, 1992). From the mid-80’s, Sweden registered Rhodiola extracts as a natural herbal remedy with a brain stimulant and adaptogen benefit (Stranberg, 1997; Aly, 1997). Denmark too, registered SHR-5 in 2001 for a similar reason and with the added benefit of being an anti-fatigue medicine. The number of clinical studies examining the extract has steadily risen. One of the best studies assessed the ability of SHR-5 extract, in a tightly controlled study with placebo, which improved anti-fatigue and tiredness in Russian cadets performing night tasks in a stressed environment (Shevtsov et al., 2003). There are also some improvements noted in learning behaviour and memory in mice.


Aly, K. (1997) Alternativmedicin. Läkemedelsboken 97/87. Apoteksbolaget AB, Stockholm pp. 873–879

Cifani, C., Micioni Di, B. M.V., Vitale, G., Ruggieri, V., Ciccocioppo, R., Massi, M. (2010) Effect of salidroside, active principle of Rhodiola rosea extract, on binge eating(2010) Physiology and Behavior, 101 (5), pp. 555-562.

Pharmacopée Française (1974) IX edition. 214/100

Pharmacopoeia Svecia (1775) Sparschuch, H. Holmia, 39

Shevtsov,V.A., Zholus, B.I., Shervarly,V.I., et al (2003). A randomized trial of two different doses of SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine 10 pp. 95–105.

Steinegger-Hänsel (1992) Farmakognosie, 5th edition. 613

Strandberg K (1997) Receptfria läkemedel. Läkemedelsboken 97/98. Apoteksbolaget AB, Stockholm. pp. 869–872

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