Hailing from the arctic regions of Asia and Eastern Europe, Rhodiola Rosea belongs to a group of adaptogens with a host of therapeutic benefits. This ancient herb promises immense potential in helping the body adapt better to physical, chemical, and environmental stress.
Given its long history of use, there is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence to support Rhodiola’s healing and treatment potential. But what does science have to say about all this?
Here is our take on what this healing herb can and cannot do for you.
- What is Rhodiola Rosea?
- How Does Rhodiola Rosea Extract Work?
- What Are the Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea?
- How To Take Rhodiola Rosea
- What Are The Side Effects of Rhodiola Rosea
What is Rhodiola Rosea?
Rhodiola Rosea is a flowering plant whose root is primarily used for its therapeutic properties. It goes by many different names, including golden root, arctic root, roseroot, and King’s crown.
The plant is part of a widespread traditional medicine system that spans parts of Russia, Europe, and Asia.
It also enjoys repute in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where the root has been used to enhance stamina, lower stress, and anxiety.
Historical evidence also links the plant to the Vikings, who used it to boost their physical strength, while the Sherpa have been using it to keep up their stamina for their outstanding mountaineering skills.
Many health benefits have been attributed to Rhodiola Rosea that we will look at closely today and see how they hold up in the light of scientific evidence.
How Does Rhodiola Rosea Extract Work?
Studies have found Rhodiola Rosea to contain around 140 different chemical compounds. Of these, two active compounds are rather prominent and have been the subject of various scientific studies.
- Rosavin belongs to a group of compounds known as phenylpropanoids. It is the main active phytochemical component in Rhodiola Rosea.
- Salidroside is the second functional component of Rhodiola, with some evidence suggesting that it may even be more active than rosavin.
In a nootropic capacity, both compounds work together to yield brain-boosting benefits. Some evidence, however, suggests that the effect of salidroside may even be more than that of rosavin.
There appear to be about 60-90 species of Rhodiola, with rosavin being exclusive to Rhodiola Rosea, whereas salidroside is common to other Rhodiola species.
Besides, the roots of Rhodiola Rosea have been used to stimulate the nervous system, improve work performance, eliminate mental fatigue, and boost overall health treatment.
Rhodiola extract is also a potent antioxidant with anticarcinogenic features given its many phenolic compounds.
What Are the Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea?
There are a few different mechanisms that dictate the way Rhodiola Rosea works. These health benefits range from improving physical and mental performance to reducing fatigue and helping with all-around recovery.
The extract of Rhodiola Rosea is an adaptogen. It has favorably affected various physiological functions, including central nervous system activity and cardiovascular function.
Improves Brain Function
As a nootropic, Rhodiola health benefits include its ability to improve cognitive function.
Some studies document Rhodiola to be a promising yet gentle treatment for various mental health conditions such as stress, neuroprotection, and mild to moderate depression.
Its cognition-enhancing potential also includes its ability to promote neurogenesis by repairing and growing new neurons under stress.
One study used the extract on military cadets after 24 hours of sleep deprivation, showing improvement in mental performance in processing and short-term memory (1).
Helps to Fight Fatigue
Rhodiola Rosea or arctic root can help fight both mental and physical fatigue. Its ability and effectiveness to reduce physical fatigue and improve energy levels have been studied extensively.
The plant has long been used to help people tackle exhaustion and fatigue resulting from low energy. Now researchers are also looking at how it can help lower mental fatigue symptoms like brain fog or low concentration.
In one study, researchers administered 200 mg of Rhodiola for eight weeks to people with prolonged chronic fatigue symptoms.
Results showed fatigue symptoms continuing to improve throughout the 8-week trial period (2).
Increases Resistance to Stress
Rhodiola can also lower cortisol levels, which helps reduce anxiety and improve health in multiple ways.
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone with elevated levels triggering many stress-induced symptoms like hormone imbalances, binge-eating, abdominal weight gain, weakened immunity, and decreased memory.
By balancing cortisol levels, adaptogens like Rhodiola can help improve the adrenal system’s health and better manage both physical and mental responses to stress.
Some studies in this area show the benefits of Rhodiola Rosea to restore standard patterns of eating and sleeping after stress.
Reduces Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea supplements can help increase certain neurotransmitters’ levels, such as serotonin and dopamine. With regards to stress, dopamine controls motivation, reward, and the brain’s pleasure centers.
Serotonin, on the other hand, regulates emotions, particularly happiness. A surge in these neurotransmitters can impact mood positively and make you feel more content.
Doctors practicing functional medicine often prescribe it as a natural alternative to anti-depression medication. Since Rhodiola increases dopamine sensitivity, it can help improve mood, abate anxiety, and reduce mild to moderate depression symptoms.
One clinical trial study looked at the effects of Rhodiola Rosea extract on 150 participants suffering from symptoms of depression. After one month of administering Rhodiola, 2/3rds of the participants exhibited complete remission of symptoms.
One study with 10 participants presented findings that its effectiveness may reduce generalized anxiety disorder symptoms after taking a 340mg dose of Rhodiola Rosea for ten weeks (3).
Improves Exercise Performance
Research indicates that if you are looking to boost your energy levels and improve your athletic profile naturally, then Rhodiola or golden root supplements may be an excellent option to consider.
The herb has energy-enhancing potential that comes from its ability to increase red blood cell count. Red Blood cells are the carriers of oxygen and nutrients to muscles.
With an increase in their number, more nutrients and oxygen get supplied, preventing muscle fatigue and improving exercise performance.
The plant also seems to possess anti-inflammatory features that assist rapid recovery and improves endurance exercise performance.
One study with 15 female participants found that women taking a higher dose of Rhodiola Rosea could run faster than others who received a placebo (4).
Has Anticancer Properties
Preliminary evidence suggests that Rhodiola Rosea may also have anti-cancer properties.
The herb is abundant in phenolic compounds known to possess strong antioxidant properties. Animal studies show that it lowers toxicity from anti-cancer drugs while enhancing their anticarcinogenic effects.
Many chemotherapy agents are hemotoxic, meaning they reduce the number of normal blood cell precursors in the bone marrow. Or, they are hepatoxic, meaning they cause damage to the liver contemporary to cancer cells.
When Rhodiola extract was used as a treatment in animal studies, these serious side effects were significantly reduced.
Helps to Control Diabetes
Among other Rhodiola health benefits, the herb may be used as a possible treatment to control diabetes and lower blood glucose.
It works in the glucose pathway by increasing the number of glucose transporters. With additional transporters, the body can move more glucose into cells and lower blood sugar levels in the bloodstream.
One animal study investigated this theory with findings showings that Rhodiola may balance blood sugar by increasing the number of glucose receptors in cells (5).
Also, elevated cortisol levels in the body can bring about symptoms like insulin resistance, among others. Rhodiola’s ability to regulate cortisol can also help regulate blood sugar levels.
If you take any medicine for diabetes, consult with your doctor first before starting any supplementation.
How To Take Rhodiola Rosea
Like other adaptogens, the effects of Rhodiola Rosea take their time to present themselves. As such, it is recommended to work the supplement extract into your daily routine for optimal benefits.
The ideal recommendation is to take it about 15 minutes before a meal to assist with better absorption.
Some people report feeling the effect of Rhodiola supplements in as little as a few days, while it may take a couple of weeks for others.
However, clinical studies show that Rhodiola presents its full benefits in 30-40 days.
Experts recommend starting small with Rhodiola dosage and then working your way up.
It would be best to consider Rhodiola that comes with 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside content, for optimal results. Or as an extract SHR-5 containing the recommended amounts of active ingredients.
The recommended supplemental dosage of Rhodiola Rosea L. extract is between 250-700 mg per day, split into two doses.
The dosage will also vary depending on why you’re taking Rhodiola Rosea. You can take a Rhodiola supplement at different strengths to treat various problems.
Doses, as used in scientifically-backed studies, show the following to be safe and optimal:
- For Athletes: 170-200 mg a day
- Depression: 340 mg divided into one or two doses daily
- For Mental Fatigue Prevention: 50 mg a day
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 170 mg two times a day
- Stress Relieve: 200 mg two times every day
It is recommended to take it on an empty stomach, but not before bedtime. It can present a somewhat stimulatory effect.
Rhodiola Rosea supplements come in several forms, from powders and tinctures to extracts and pills.
In the dietary supplement capacity, it is mainly taken in tablet or capsule form as it’s easier to determine the amount used in pills.
Some people avail its adaptogen potential steeped as a tea to help calm nerves, lower anxiety, and encourage a good night’s sleep.
The powder variation of Rhodiola Rosea is easy to add to smoothies and shakes. Still, the consensus is that Rhodiola supplements are the best way to yield their optimal efficacy.
What Are The Side Effects of Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea supplements are generally considered safe to use and tolerated well by most people. There have been very few side effects reported, with the most common complaints being a dry mouth or temporary dizziness.
Even though it is used in the capacity of an antidepressant, Rhodiola Rosea does not present any of the side effects associated with using prescription antidepressants.
People with certain autoimmune disorders should be wary of taking Rhodiola Rosea to stimulate the immune system and present some adverse side effects.
Since it can also lower blood pressure and blood sugar, anyone diagnosed with these conditions should only start herbal supplementation under medical supervision, especially if they are already taking any medicine for either condition.
Should any side effects occur, stop using Rhodiola supplements and consult with your doctor.
Rhodiola Rosea is a trusted adaptogen that can ease stress-related fatigue, improve stamina, concentration, and mental well-being. It acts as a neuroprotectant with promising benefits for combating the physical and emotional stressors of daily life.
It is best at harmonizing cognitive enhancement with physical performance giving users the best of both worlds. That is why we would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking to improve in both areas.
- Can I take Rhodiola Rosea and Ashwagandha together?
Many supplement manufacturers use a combination of Rhodiola and ashwagandha together.
Both supplements yield calming and focused energy that users enjoy, with Rhodiola focusing more on physical stamina and ashwagandha relaxing the brain.
That said, there have not been too many clinical trials of their combined effects.
Rhodiola can bring on dizziness, while ashwagandha can be sedating. Both may also bring down blood pressure, so anyone with hypotension should not take the two together.
- Does Rhodiola interact with any medications?
There are no known interactions of Rhodiola with any medication. But it can bring down blood flow pressure and blood glucose levels.
Anyone using medication for either condition should not use Rhodiola without first consulting with their health care provider.
Some interactions have been documented with MAOIs, so it is advised not to use Rhodiola with MAOIs.
- Can I take Rhodiola Rosea every day?
Rhodiola is considered safe to take every day for the short-term.
Studies show that twice-daily doses have been used safely for 6 to 12 weeks with minimal side effects.
- Is Rhodiola Rosea a stimulant?
Rhodiola can have a slight stimulatory effect and should not be used by people taking other stimulants.
It may also add to the stimulant effect of caffeine, so it should be used carefully.