- The Plate
Before Steroids, Russians Secretly Studied Herbs
During the Cold War, Soviet scientists experimented with Rhodiola, a plant that shows some promise in helping athletes with endurance.
Long before the Russians were caught doping their athletes with steroids, the former Soviet Union spent decades secretly searching for energy-enhancing plants that would help their Olympians, as well as their soldiers and astronauts, perform better. The Soviets were looking for what they called “adaptogens”—plant species that would encourage the body to adapt to physical and mental stress without major side effects.
The government took these experiments so seriously that the scientists involved have been banned from speaking of their results or publishing their findings outside the country, according to Patricia Gerbarg, an Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at New York Medical College and co-author of The Rhodiola Revolution, published in 2004. In the course of writing her book,