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So that's how Rhodiola rosea works

If you want to make sure you function well during a period of extreme stress, or if you are an endurance athlete looking for tighter times, you may well benefit from Rhodiola rosea. Researchers at Zhejiang University have discovered how Rhodiola rosea works. If you read their article you'll find the stuff twice as interesting too.

Scientists who study diabetes are fond of playing around with advanced substances that stimulate the enzyme AMPK. More AMPK means more mitochondria, more fat burning and an increased uptake of glucose by the muscles. You can prevent diabetes-2 by getting more physical exercise, and physical exercise also stimulates that same AMPK. Because most people can't be bothered with exercise, some are now pinning their hopes on the scientific search for an effective AMPK booster.


Traditional healers have used Rhodiola rosea for centuries to treat diabetes-2, high blood pressure, fatigue and lack of oxygen.

Wouldn't it be so handy if good old Rhodiola also contains a compound that stimulates AMPK, the Chinese thought? So they exposed rats' muscle cells in test tubes for 90 minutes to salidroside [structural formula shown above], an active substance in Rhodiola rosea.

The figure below shows that salidroside induces muscle cells to absorb more glucose. Salidroside imitates the effect of insulin in this way and boosts it too. When the researchers added the AMPK blocker Compound C [ComC] to the insulin and salidroside mix, the synergetic effect disappeared. Ergo, salidroside works through AMPK.

So that's how Rhodiola rosea works

So that's how Rhodiola rosea works

So that's how Rhodiola rosea works

In the muscle cells the researchers observed no effect of salidroside on the amount of AMPK, but there was an effect on the amount of phosphorylated AMPK. Phosphorylated AMPK is active AMPK. So salidroside doesn't boost the synthesis of AMPK, but gives the AMPK molecules that are already present a wake-up call.

"These results support potential clinical application of salidroside in diabetes and its complications", the researchers conclude. We thought of a more pedestrian use: why not add salidroside to high-carb energy drinks?

Eur J Pharmacol. 2008 Jul 7; 588(2-3): 165-9.

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