Anti-Aging Herbs

Soviet Secrets that Supercharge Your Health

Since the early 1950’s, the USSR Academy of Science and Ministry of Health studied several herbs for their ability to improve health, mental and physical performance, and fight certain diseases.  Why all this interest in these adaptogens?  The Russians wanted to excel in the Olympics and in the space race.  These herbs helped them to do just that!  Certain extracts of Rhodiola rosea and Rhododendron caucasicum were so successful in keeping the Russian athletes and cosmonauts dominant that the Soviet government considered information about these herbs a guarded secret.  That’s why little has been known about them until recently.

The Russian province of Georgia has long been known for human longevity.  Many Georgian residents live active and healthy lives well past 100 years of age.  Their good health and long life has been attributed to a number of factors: certain qualities in their drinking water, consumption of traditional yogurt and red wine, and teas made of Rhodiola rosea, also known as “Artic Root” or “Golden Root”, and Rhododendron caucasicum, also called Rhododendron Alpine tea.  Extracts of these two herbs, known as Rosavin and Rhodenol, are the most popular adaptogens and longevity enhancers in Georgia and in Russia. These high-altitude herbs are among the most fascinating plant species in the world.

Summary of Benefits of Rhodiola rosea and Rhododendron caucasicum

Russian Scientific Studies have clearly demonstrated these benefits:

  • Dramatic stress reduction and improved mood.
  • Improved memory, concentration, and ability to stay focused on mental tasks.
  • Improved capacity for physical work and performance.
  • Weight reduction in both healthy and overweight individuals.
  • Effectiveness as a stimulant in fatigue.
  • Improved sexual function and fertility.
  • Enhanced antioxidant activity, crucial in the prevention of both chronic disease and aging.
  •  Prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  •  Effectiveness in treating a variety of illnesses (listed below).

The Scourge of Our Times:

Stress, depression, low energy, chronic weight gain, and obesity

Modern lifestyle has created a number of health hazards that are often closely interrelated. The more stressed we feel by the demands on our time and energy, the more depressed and anxious we feel.  Most people turn to food as a comfort and overeat, especially on high-calorie, over-processed, “comfort” foods, resulting in weight gain.  Unhappiness about being overweight leads to fad dieting that often puts the body into starvation mode. This leads to a lower metabolic rate and further weight gain, chronic fatigue, depression, and lethargy. Physical inactivity due our modern conveniences as well as fatigue and depression worsens the problem.  This vicious cycle leads to obesity, a problem of epidemic proportions in our society.  Obesity is a significant risk factor for most chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis.

Synergistic Effect on Weight Control with Rhododendron and Rhodiola:

  • By improving neurotransmitter function, these two herbs increase ability to cope with stress.  Clinical studies on Rhodiola rosea have demonstrated this herbs ability to raise the neurotransmitter levels, effectively treating depression.  This helps to break the vicious emotion-weight gain cycle.
  • Elite athletes taking Rhodiola extracts have shown clear improvements in speed, strength, and muscular density.  By improving ATP and creatine phosphate levels, Rhodiola substantially increases energy, work capacity, and physical performance.  For the average person looking to lose weight and get in shape, Rosavin makes exercise programs easier and more productive as well. It also improves recovery after workouts and less stiffness and soreness the following day.  Therefore, the person is more likely to stick to the exercise program.
  • Fat Burning:  Both herbs have demonstrated effectiveness at inducing weight loss in clinical studies. Rhodiola extract activates an enzyme called hormone-sensitive adipose lipase in body fat stores (adipose tissue) by stimulating the production of neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine, as well as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).  These chemical messengers induce the mobilization of fat, making it available to burned for energy.

Stress, Depression, and Mental Function

  • Stress: Adaptogenic herbs reduce stress in the body by normalizing various body functions.  Rosavin reduces stress by balancing neurotransmitters that are the chemical messengers that carry messages in the brain.  Stress causes first an overproduction, then depletion of neurotransmitters as well as adrenal hormones.
  • Depression: Rhodiola has been proven effective in Russian clinical trials as a treatment for depression. Studies demonstrate that this extract raises serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that is depleted in depression and sleep disorders, in addition to its effect on epinephrine and norepinephrine.  Russian doctors have used it for years both alone and in combination with conventional antidepressant drugs.  It not only increased the effectiveness of these medications but also reduces the side effects.
  • Memory and Intellect: Rosavin enhances the learning process and intellectual function.  In clinical studies, subjects demonstrated ability to handle increased intellectual demands with less fatigue and fewer errors.  Their concentration and ability to stay on task lasted over four hours after taking a single Rhodiola supplement.  Hearing and ability to remember are also enhanced.

Immune Support:

Stress, by depleting neurotransmitters, has been shown to diminish immune function.  Rhodiola blocks this effect by balancing neurotransmitter function. Rhododendron has demonstrated anti-viral properties.  Synergistically, these two herbs can prevent those under stress from succumbing to infections.

 

List of other conditions where there is clinical evidence of benefit from these herbal extracts:

Rhodiola

  • Altitude sickness
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Impotence
  • Infertility and amenorrhea

Rhododendron

  • Prevention of Cardiovascular disease
  • Lowering cholesterol and other blood fats
  • Chronic venous insufficiency and disruptions, retinal hemorrhages, and other circulatory problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Rheumatological disorders: Arthritis, gout, myalgia
  • Cough, chronic bronchitis
  • Allergies
  • Viral Infections (Herpes, HIV, and others)

The Power of the Adaptogens:

Soviet scientist, I.I. Brekhman, PhD, coined the use of the term “adaptogen” to refer to a substance that enables the body to better cope with stress.  Adaptogens have the unique ability to normalize body functions.  These substances can raise or lower function in order to return the body to normal function, called homeostasis.  If blood sugar, blood pressure, or cortisol levels are too low or too high, adaptogens aid in return to optimal levels.  Therefore, the health benefits of adaptogens is broad, including improving stress tolerance, recovery, immune function, brain power, physical capacity, antioxidant status, oxygenation of tissues, liver detoxification, endocrine function, and sexual prowess.

Seventeen Powerful Adaptogens: While we recommend many of these substances listed below for specific conditions at our office, they should be taken under the care of a knowledgeable physician as some have certain side effects, such as increasing blood pressure or estrogen levels, and are contraindicated for certain individuals.

  • Rhodiola rosea (Artic Root)
  • Rhododendron caucasicum
  • Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosus)
  • American/Korean/Chinese Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius/ginseng)
  • Pantocrene (from deer antler)
  • Schizandra (seed and fruit)
  • Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera)
  • Avena sativa (Oat straw/grain)
  • Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Cordyceps sinesis
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Elderberry (Sambuccua Canadensis nigra)
  • Hawthorne (Cratageus oxyacantha)
  • Grape seed and skin (Vitis vinifera, OPC’s)
  • Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
  • Lo Han (Curcubitaceae fruit)
  • Ginger (Aingiber officinalis)

Rhodiola: The Best of the Adaptogens

The Russians studied ginseng, the best known of the adaptogens, extensively before turning their attention in the early 1960’s to Rhodiola.  They quickly found that the health benefits of this plant were much broader and it possesses stronger adaptogenic effects.

  • In clinical studies, both Siberian ginseng and Rhodiola demonstrated the ability to enhance athletic performance and recovery time.
  • Rhodiola demonstrated additional benefits such as anabolic effect (improved muscle to fat ratio and muscle mass) and improved mental function.
  • Rhodiola increased the resistance to disease.
  • Rhodiola has no detectable levels of toxicity or side effects.
  • Neither addiction nor psychological habituation occurred in any of the clinical trials of Rhodiola extract.

 Quality Control Issues: 

As always, we carefully research the forms on herbal and nutritional supplements we recommend.  Caution when purchasing supplements is warranted because not all supplements contain the active ingredients necessary for the desired benefits.  In fact, most of the supplements sold in the United States that supposedly containing Rhodiola rosea contain no rosavin when actually assayed for chemical composition! We know of only one company that is supplying the proven extracts of these herbs.

Recommended Source of Rhodiola rosea:

  • Although there are more that 200 species of Rhodiola in nature, ONLY Rhodiola rosea has proven to have the widest spectrum of benefits, especially in the treatment of depression, stress management, and weight loss.
  • The Pharmacological Committee of the USSR Ministry of Health, in 1969, authorized the commercial production of a standardized extract of Rhodiola rosea as the most effective.  In this country, this specific extract is called “Rosavin” TM. Other extracts may not convey the same benefits.

Recommended Source of Rhododendron caucasicum:

  • While there are many species of Rhododendron in the world, ONLY Rhododendron caucasicum is SAFE for human consumption.  All other species contain toxins, called grayanotoxins that are poisonous.  NO OTHER RHODODENDRON SPECIES SHOULD BE CONSUMED.
  • For optimal results, only the true species of Rhododendron caucasicum, harvested in the spring when the young plant leaves contain the maximal amounts of certain beneficial phenolic compounds. In this country, this specific extract is called “Rhodenol” TM.

References:

Effective Natural Stress and Weight Management Using Rhodiola rosea andRhododendron caucasicum.  By Dr. Zakir Ramazanov and Dr. Maria del Mar Bernal Suarez. 1999.

Russian Energy Secrets.  Dr. Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD, and Donald Yance, Jr. 2001.

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