From Ergo Log
Endurance athletes who push themselves to the limit – for example by doing altitude training – may see quicker results by using supplements containing Rhodiola. We base this bold statement on a Chinese in-vitro study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology. According to the study, salidroside, a component in Rhodiola, boosts the production of EPO.
Inhabitants of mountainous areas of Asia use Rhodiola extracts to counter the effects of altitude sickness. [Altern Med Rev. 2001 Jun; 6(3): 293-302.] A couple of hundred milligrams a day reduces the amount of time the human body needs to adjust to an oxygen-deprived environment, according to the instructions. Mountain dwellers in China use extracts of the roots and bulbs of Rhodiola crenulata and extracts of Rhodiola rosea.
Rhodiola plants contain compounds such as rosine, rosarine, rosavine and salidroside. The most important of these may well be salidroside [structural formula: the lowest of the diagrams above]. From cell studies done in recent years Chinese researchers discovered that salidroside in blood cells boosts the production of EPO [J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 27; 133(2): 308-14.] and kidney cells [Planta Med. 2011 Jun; 77(9): 894-9.].
In the study referred to in this article the researchers examined whether creatine also has a positive effect on diabetes patients who do strength training. They got In the study referred to here the Chinese re-examined carefully the EPO effect of this Rhodiola compound. They put different concentrations of salidroside into test tubes and mixed it with human kidney [HEK293T] and liver [HepG2] cells. The researchers observed that salidroside did indeed boost the emission of EPO.
How this works is shown in the figure below on the left. Salidroside boosts the concentration of the protein HIF-1-alpha in the cells. Cells produce HIF-1-alpha when their supply of oxygen is limited. HIF-1-alpha stimulates the kidneys to start producing more EPO.
But how does salidroside boost the concentration of HIF-1-alpha? Not by getting the cells to produce more HIF-1-alpha, as the figure below on the right shows. Click on the figure for a larger version.
The mechanism through which salidroside boosts the concentration of HIF-1-alpha is shown above. The compound inhibits the formation of HIF-1-alpha-hydroxide, a waste product of HIF-1-alpha. Apparently salidroside inhibits the enzymes that usually convert and neutralise HIF-1-alpha.
"Besides Rhodiola, salidroside has been isolated at least from two other plants: Cistanche deserticola (Cistanches Herba) and Ligustrum lucidum Ait. (Ligustri Lucidi Fructus)", the researchers write. "Although the aforementioned three herbs contain salidroside as the major ingredient, the medicinal usages of them are rather different. These phenomena show the complexity and rationality of the usage of herbal medicine in China."
Eur J Pharmacol. 2012 Mar 15; 679(1-3): 34-9.