A sensitive and specific liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS) method has been developed and validated for the identification and quantification of salidroside, a major active constituent from Rhodiola rosea L., in rat plasma using helicid as an internal standard. The method involves a simple single-step liquid-liquid extraction with n-butanol. The analytes were separated by isocratic gradient elution on a Shim-pack ODS (4.6 microm, 250 mmx2.0 mm i.d.) column and analyzed in selected ion monitoring (SIM) mode with a negative electrospray ionization (ESI) interface using the respective [M+Cl]- ions, m/z 335 for salidroside, m/z 319 for internal standard. The method was validated over the concentration range of 5-2000 ng/mL for salidroside. Within- and between-batch precision (R.S.D.%) were all within 6% and accuracy ranged from 96 to 112%. The lower limits of quantification was 5 ng/mL. The extraction recovery was on average 86.6% for salidroside. The validated method was used to study the pharmacokinetic profile of salidroside in rat plasma after intravenous and oral administration of salidroside. The bioavailability of salidroside in rats is 32.1%.