Rhodiola rosea root, an herb long revered in ancient folk medicines, has quite the reputation for its powerful effects on the brain. Its rise to popularity is a fascinating one, too. As Epoch Times reports, it gained attention in the US about 20 years ago, when a husband and wife team of psychiatry professors came upon the herb after the wife, Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, contracted a severe case of lyme disease that left her with "extensive cognitive impairment and memory loss." After taking rhodiola, Gerbarg said she returned to full cognitive capacity, and considers the plant to have saved her life, "in terms of the quality of my life and my ability to work."
Naturally, Gerbarg and her husband, Dr. Richard Brown, tried to learn all they could about the herb. What they found speaks volumes of rhodiola's energizing effects on the body and mind.
Epoch Times writes:
Sold on the effects and surprised that nobody seemed to know much about it, Gerbarg and her husband began two years of intense investigation into rhodiola. Their search led them to Dr. Zakir Ramazanov, a phytochemist and former Soviet scientist from the Republic of Georgia with plans to introduce the herb to America.
With Ramazanov’s help, Gerbarg and Brown were able to gain access to a large body of research done on rhodiola during the Cold War. Starting in the 1950s, the Soviet Ministry of Defense began an exhaustive search for a product that could enhance military performance. Free from contemporary research restrictions such as budgetary concerns and human rights committees, Soviet scientists were able to do studies that would be too difficult and costly to do today. Their investigation developed a three herb formula, which they dubbed ADAPT-232. The main component was rhodiola.
The formula proved so successful with soldiers that the Soviets went on to use it to enhance the performance of Russian cosmonauts and Olympic athletes.
“It was also used to improve the intellectual performance of their scientists, because it not only reduces physical fatigue it also reduces mental fatigue so that they could work long hours accurately,” Gerbarg said.
While the Soviets shared their insights with the other herbs in the ADAPT formula, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero) and schizandra berry, their findings on rhodiola were kept in secret files, far from American rivals.
The Soviet Union dissolved in 1992, but even after files were declassified, they remained largely forgotten in the defense department basement.
Now that the Soviet secret is out, the many benefits of rhodiola can be reaped by Americans (and anyone else!). Not only does rhodiola improve brain function (studies show that it increases neurotransmitters), it's also effective for respiratory problems and improving physical strength, stamina, and endurance.