Zakir Ramazanov first encountered Rhodiola rosea in 1979 as a Soviet soldier in Afghanistan. A comrade often received boxes full of the yellow-flowered mountain herb from his home in Siberia and would prepare and share a sweet-smelling tea from the root. Ramazanov found that the drink seemed to quicken his hiking and speed his recovery after a taxing mission.Link
Much of the old Soviet research on the herb remains locked away in Russian language journals. But over the past decade a growing body of new research published in English tentatively supports the results of early Soviet research. Laboratory and animal studies show that the herb may inhibit cancer cells, protect healthy cells from toxins, and correct enzyme imbalances associated with diabetes. In addition, four trials with human volunteers show that rhodiola extracts can boost mental performance, reduce fatigue, and ease depression.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects