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Rhodiola rosea L.: an Herb with Anti-Stress, Anti-Aging, and Immunostimulating Properties for Cancer Chemoprevention


Purpose of review

Rhodiola rosea extracts have been used as a dietary supplement in healthy populations, including athletes, to non-specifically enhance the natural resistance of the body to both physical and behavior stresses for fighting fatigue and depression. We summarize the information with respect to the new pharmacological activities of Rhodiola rosea extracts and its underlying molecular mechanisms in this review article.

Recent findings

In addition to its multiplex stress-protective activity, Rhodiola rosea extracts have recently demonstrated its anti-aging, anti-inflammation, immunostimulating, DNA repair and anti-cancer effects in different model systems. Molecular mechanisms of Rhodiola rosea extracts's action have been studied mainly along with one of its bioactive compounds, salidroside. Both Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside have contrast molecular mechanisms on cancer and normal physiological functions. For cancer, Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside inhibit the mTOR pathway and reduce angiogenesis through down-regulation of the expression of HIF-1α/HIF-2α. For normal physiological functions, Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside activate the mTOR pathway, stimulate paracrine function and promote neovascularization by inhibiting PHD3 and stabilizing HIF-1α proteins in skeletal muscles. In contrast to many natural compounds, salidroside is water-soluble and highly bioavailable via oral administration and concentrated in urine by kidney excretion.


Rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside can impose cellular and systemic benefits similar to the effect of positive lifestyle interventions to normal physiological functions and for anti-cancer. The unique pharmacological properties of Rhodiola rosea extracts or salidroside deserve further investigation for cancer chemoprevention, in particular for human urinary bladder cancer.

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