Rhodiola rosea L. (Crassulaceae) is a plant living at high altitudes in Europe and Asia. Its roots have long been used in the traditional medical system of these geographical areas to increase the organism resistance to physical stress; today, it has become an important component of many dietary supplements. In this study we investigate the antioxidant capacity of the R.rosea aqueous extract evaluating its ability to counteract some of the main damages induced by hypochlorous acid (HOCl), a powerful oxidant generated by activated phagocytes, to human erythrocytes. Ascorbic acid was used as a reference substance because of its physiological HOCl-scavenging ability. Our study demonstrates that R. rosea is able to significantly protect, in a dose-dependent manner, human RBC from glutathione (GSH) depletion, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) inactivation and hemolysis induced by the oxidant. Furthermore, we demonstrate that R. rosea aqueous extract acts from the inside of the erythrocyte suggesting a probable involving of cell components. The protection on GSH afforded by the R. rosea extract with respect to ascorbic acid, occurred also if added 2 or 5 min. later than the oxidant, suggesting a more rapid or powerful effect.