Rhodiola as one of traditional medicines has been used for clinical treatments due to its
strong antioxidant properties. Phytochemical analysis revealed the presence of flavonoids, phenylpropanoids,
phenylethanol/benzyl alcohol derivatives, cyanogenic glycosides and terpenoids. The
bioactive compounds had been demonstrated to be effective at scavenging reactive oxygen species
(ROS). The structures contain phenolic hydroxyl groups and unsaturated bonds. This article reviews
antioxidant capacities of the extracts and bioactive components derived from Rhodiola plants. As the
major pharmacological ingredient, salidroside is rigorously investigated and used in scientific researches
and clinical practices. Accumulated evidences indicated that extracts of Rhodiola plants or
salidroside could be able to reverse DNA damage and alter expression of cytokines and antioxidative
enzymes induced by ROS. The underlying mechanisms for the antioxidative effects of the herb have
been investigated in the last two decades. We summarize the possible effects and acting pathways for
the herb involved in several chronic diseases in cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems, as
well as potential epigenetic influences. The information generated from experimental and clinical
studies offered valuable insights for further investigations of medical potentials of Rhodiola plants.
Keywords: Rhodiola, traditional medicines, reactive oxygen species, superoxide dismutase, disease, epigenetics.
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