Rhodiola is one of the original ingredients branded as being an adaptogen. That makes sense, said expert herbalist Roy Upton Dip Ayu, founder of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. The plant is native to Central Asia, and the term ‘adaptogen’ arose there first, too.
Back in the USSR
Upton said it’s a quirk of the history of botanical ingredients that the term ‘adaptogen’ has been applied to so many Ayurvedic and TCM herbs. In fact, it was coined by a Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev in 1957 back during the era of the Soviet Union.
“The first thing that was called an ‘adaptogen’ was Siberian ginseng,” Upton told NutraIngredients-USA.
The concept was then developed further by Soviet pharmacologist Israel Brekhman, Upton said. The definition of what qualifies as a adaptogen includes a substance that can increase the state of nonspecific resistance to stress and decrease the sensitivity to stressors, resulting in a higher level of equilibrium instead of exhaustion.
“The term then got applied to a lot of other botanicals, like rhodiola, withania (ashwagandha), tulsi, even reishi mushroom,” Upton said. “Now you see it start to be applied to a lot of other botanicals.”
World changing into unexpected new forms
Steve Fink, vice president of marketing at PLT Health Solutions, said his company has seen consumers looking for answers not only to challenges of the moment, but are looking for products that can support them in the years ahead, when the world might look very different from it does today. PLT markets one of the better know rhodiola products in the market, branded as RhodioLife.
“WE are seeing stress permeate every aspect of life,” Fink said. “About seven out of 10 customers we talk to want to talk about stress management.”
Consumers will face new stressors they’ve never faced in the months and years ahead. The ongoing pandemic crisis seems likely to destroy entire industries. For example, in many areas numerous restaurants have closed their doors for good. And many of those that have successfully reopened say they have been able to make a go of it only by offering increased outdoor seating. That idea has at most two months more to run before cold fall weather shuts it down in most markets. Many restaurateurs have said that they can’t profitably operate at 50% indoor seating capacity to take into account social distancing guidelines.
So many workers in the hospitality trades are unsure of what their future careers will look like. Ditto for workers in many retail outlets, live music venues and so forth. Many consumers will be looking for products to support them during these stressful transitions, Fink said.
‘Anxiety and lack of balance’
“There’s a feeling that consumers need something to deal with anxiety and a lack of balance,” Fink said.
“There is a lot of adaptogenic research on rhodiola. It’s very solid,” Upton said.
RhodioLife, which is manufactured by Spanish company Nektium, has been researched in relation to generalized anxiety disorder and its neuroprotective properties, that company says.
According to the nonprofit group Mental Health America, rhodiola can help users “to reduce stress, combat fatigue, increase mental performance and improve physical and mental fitness and resilience.”
Several years ago PLT had worked on a project to bolster the botanical ID of its rhodiola raw materials. That work should stand the company in good stead as concerns about supply chain integrity ripple through a market ripped asunder by COVID-19 dislocations.
Just Rhodiola rosea?
One of the controversies surrounding Rhodiola is the concentration on the Rhodiola rosea species. Upton said that there are several species that were used more or less interchangeably for medicinal purposes in Central Asia. For purposes of standardization marketers and researchers settled on the rosea species, but Upton said he’s not convinced that that decision was entirely correct. The issue might come more to the fore if supplies of this wildcrafted material start to become depleted.
“I understand why it was done. I’m just not sure that it was right,” he said.