Is Rhodiola on the Road to Extinction?

Matilda Ranasinghe  -A Level Biology Student

CITES, the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna, is an agreement between governments to prevent international trade from endangering animal and plant species. ₁The convention was agreed in 1973 in USA, and now is among the conservation agreements with the largest memberships, 184 parties in total.

How does CITES work?

CITES works by choosing certain species to have extra controls when traded internationally. So, all exports and imports of these specimens have to be authorised by CITES, to ensure the trading is ethical and doesn’t affect an entire species. The species are sorted into Appendices I, II and III depending on the different levels of protection needed.

₂Appendix I, lists the species of plants and animals with the highest level of endangerment and are threatened with extinction. CITES prohibits international trade of these species for commercial use. The trade of these animals and plants is only used for scientific research, however, an import and export permit is still needed for the trade to be authorised.

₃Examples of Appendix I species include a variety of aloe plants to cacti to tigers and whales.

Aloe Ferox
Intense red flower of ferocious aloe in sunlight in nature


₂Appendix II, is for the species that aren’t necessarily threatened by extinction, yet they need to be closely watched regardless. Only an export permit is required for authorization for trade of these species, no import permit needed.

₄Baobab trees, brown-throated sloths and hippopotamus’, as well as many other species come under Appendix II.

₂Appendix III, are lists of species which are requested by parties to have extra control on their trade, so that exploitation or illegal trade of these species can be controlled from other countries. Species may be added or removed from Appendix III at any time and by any party.

A top view of a beautiful red Rhodiola rosea flower in nature during the daytime

Recently, CITES has made an important change regarding Rhodiola rosea, a perennial flowering plant. Rhodiola rosea has been nominated to go into Appendix II because of its potential to become endangered, due to the problem of overharvesting and the demand for Rhodiola rosea growing each year. Rhodiola rosea is commonly used as a herbal medicine and in supplements as it is considered to be an ₅adaptogen, which are natural supplements that show an ability to improve the human response to physical and/or mental stress and trauma. However, growing Rhodiola rosea is difficult, since it grows slowly, so overharvesting can easily affect the species’ existence.

Due to Rhodiola rosea products being better protected by CITES, the price of Rhodiola rosea can be expected to increase, as it will become a rarer and less easily attainable extract. However, we can also expect that Rhodiola rosea will be able to grow better in the wild as it is now conserved by the CITES trade agreement.

Why do we need CITES?

₁When CITES was formed, the idea of conservation and protection of wildlife was a relatively new concept. However, since then the need for CITES has become much more clear, as international trade of wildlife has spiralled out of control, jeopardising species of plants and animals. This has happened through increased demand for animal products or plant extracts, such as food products, medicines, leather goods and wooden products. Additionally, the process of producing these items can cause habitat loss, damaging ecosystems and leaving animals vulnerable.

Although, technically CITES would have a negative economic effect since it is restricting trade, it shows that its necessary that the conservation of animal and plant species is a priority, and that we must take personal responsibility for the species of flora and fauna which we trade, so that future generations have the same resources and opportunities that we do now.

At Nutraceuticals, we keep in check with all the CITES rules as we believe conservation of plant and animal species is very important, and fundamental to maintaining biodiversity within ecosystems. We care deeply about which plants may be at risk, as we want to protect endangered species from the threat of extinction. That’s why we don’t supply any CITES protected species and we inform our customers about the changes to CITES, when they occur, to spread awareness about the specimens that face endangerment.

Cute sloth close up. Generative AI.

1 – What is CITES? 15/3/23

2 – Article II, Fundamental Principles 16/3/23

3 - List of species protected by CITES Appendix I 19/3/23

4 - List of species protected by CITES Appendix II 19/3/23

5 – Rhodiola rosea 21/3/23

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