I appreciate your comments and insight.
The problem with Rhodiola, as I see it, is that it has been introduced to our country by folks who are obviously biased to make a profit.
I am in a fortunate position in that I've had the opportunity to review all or most of the scientific documentation on Rhodiola, much of it translated, as well as to speak and consult with the specific individuals responsible for pomoting it in the US.
Two things that must be considered with herbals, in my opinion, are 1) the experimental data, and 2) the background of traditional use. With Rhodiola, there is some entriguing experimental data, however, actual human trials are few, were done outside the US (not always a bad thing!), and were limited in parameters of measurement. Details of its traditional use, to me, are really "foggy", with most of it coming from a couple of books that are also written by individuals who are in a position to profit from the marketing success of Rhodiola. It is this marketing "hype" and "push" that is misleading some people to think that some species of Rhodiola are more effective than others. To say that Rhodiola rosea contains a unique compound called "rosavin" that other species do not have, and that it is the key to effectiveness in my opinon is not well founded from the evidence that I have seen.
Evidently, Rhodiola was originally characterized and used in Chinese medicine, going back thousands of years. The chinese name for algida, tangutica, crenulata, kirilowii and rosea species of Rhodiola is Hong Jing Tian. According to ancient chinese medicine writings, Hong Jing Tian may: "prolong human life, enhancing the Qi in human body and keep human body light; Acclimates to the heaven to enhance the primary aspect of human body; even in nature, bitter in taste; has strong effect in moistening the lung, enhancing the kidney, managing the Qi and nourishing the blood;¡highly effective for treatment of overall fatigue, thoracic suffocating, sickness etc"
Sounds like an adaptogen to me
, but like with many herbs, the effects may be subtle, variable and may take time to develop.
My personal experience with Rhodiola leads me to believe that it is an herb that has a potent antioxidant power as its main principal. And that most of the benefits come from the antioxidant effect, including enhancement of strength and endurance, oxygen utilization, improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced adaptation to high altitude, anti-cancer/immune enhancement.
So I believe that Rhodiola can definitely help one to be healthier, but I am unsure if it has such a direct effect on the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis like ginseng does. I don't think its much of a stimulant. May even have a tranquilizing effect. Whether or not it can have a "medicinal" effect to cure depression, anxiety or boost mental power, I do not know. I would recommend it for those enduring much physical stress, but I am unsure about its benefit for mental stress, unless the perceived stress is a result of a disorder related to free-radicals. Thats just my opinon.