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Rhodiola rosea is from 1 to 12 inches (2.5 to 30.5 cm) tall, fleshy, and has several stems growing from a short, scaly rootstock. Flowers have 4 sepals and 4 petals, dark purple in color, about 1⁄8 inch (0.32 cm) long, and blooming from May to July.
Rhodiola rosea in flower during the Spring U.K
A young Rhodiola rosea growing in a sunny border U.K
Rhodiola rosea sprouting new growth during the spring after winter dormancy in the U.K
The chemical composition of the essential oil from R. rosea root growing in different countries varies. For example, rosavin, rosarin and rosin at their highest concentration according to many tests can be found only in R. rosea of Russian origin; the main component of the essential oil from Rhodiola growing in Bulgaria are geraniol and myrtenol; in China the main components are geraniol and 1-octanol; and in India the main component is phenylethilic alcohol. Cinnamic alcohol was discovered only in the sample from Bulgaria.
R. rosea contains a variety of compounds that may contribute to its effects, including the class of rosavins that includes rosavin, rosarin, and rosin. Several studies have suggested that the most active components are likely to be rhodioloside and tyrosol, with other components being inactive when administered alone, but showing synergistic effects when a fixed combination of rhodioloside, rosavin, rosarin and rosin was used. Authentication, as well as potency, of R. rosea crude material and standardized extracts thereof are carried out with validated high-performance liquid chromatography analyses to verify the content of the marker constituents salidroside, rosarin, rosavin, rosin and rosiridin.
Animal tests have suggested a variety of beneficial effects for R. rosea extracts, and there is some scientific evidence for its efficacy as a treatment for depression and fatigue  in humans.
R. rosea extract exerts an antifatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate in healthy subjects and burnout patients with fatigue syndrome. Rhodiola significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and improved attention after four weeks of repeated administration. A 2007 clinical trial from Armenia showed significant effect for a Rhodiola extract in doses of 340–680 mg per day in male and female patients from 18 to 70 years old with mild to moderate depression. No side effects were demonstrated at these doses. One study found inhibition of MAO-A and MAO-B. Studies on whether Rhodiola improves physical performance have been inconclusive, with some studies showing some benefit, while others show no significant difference.
Two systematic reviews on R. rosea extracts concluded that the research evidence is contradictory, and definite conclusions over its efficacy to relieve mental and physical fatigue are hampered by the lack of rigorously-designed, well-controlled randomized control trials 
In clinical medical trials on people R. rosea extract has a positive effect on sensitive and fading skin improving overall skin condition.[full citation needed]
R. rosea promotes the release of nitric oxide from rat pineal corpus cavernosum smooth muscle cell and artery endothelium cell, which was correlated with its effect of resisting senility.R. rosea extract has been found to increase the life span of fruit fly (Drosophila) by 24% independently of dietary restriction.
R. rosea may enhance the detoxification of many toxic heavy metals.
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^Effect of Rodiola on level of NO and NOS in cultured rats penile corpus cavernosum smooth muscle cell and artery endothelium cell Kong X., Shi F., Chen Y., Lu H., Yao M., Hu M. Chinese Journal of Andrology 2007 21:10 (6-11)
^Schriner, Samuel E.; Lee, Kevin; Truong, Stephanie; Salvadora, Kathyrn T.; Maler, Steven; Nam, Alexander; Lee, Thomas; Jafari, Mahtab; Englert, Christoph (21 May 2013). "Extension of Drosophila Lifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a Mechanism Independent from Dietary Restriction". PLoS ONE8 (5): e63886. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063886.
^Boon-Niermeijer, E.K.; van den Berg, A.; Wikman, G.; Wiegant, F.A.C. "Phyto-adaptogens protect against environmental stress-induced death of embryos from the freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis". Phytomedicine7 (5): 389–399. doi:10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80060-4.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)