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Rhodiola Rosea

Sunday, March 28, 2021 • 5 minute read

What is Rhodiola?

Rhodiola Rosea (also known as Arctic Root, Golden Root, Hong Jing Tian or King's Crown) is a perennial flowering plant found within cold regions and at high altitudes in Europe and Asia, with a long history of medicinal use in Russia, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe.

Its use in medicine comes from its reported properties as an ‘adaptogen’, with many users reporting benefits in tackling physical, chemical, and environmental stress in the body.

What are the benefits?

Traditionally, Rhodiola was used to both increase endurance, work performance, high altitude tolerance as well as treating the effects of fatigue and weakness.

More recent studies suggest however that the herb has even more useful benefits. The medicinal compounds of Rhodiola Rosea have been linked to help counteract several symptoms of stress, with studies suggesting its ability to help with anxiety, mental and physical fatigue, [1] as well as depression, memory retention and improved learning[2].

How does Rhodiola work?

Most studies on Rhodiola suggest that its root extract has superior antioxidant effects, which may be higher than other adaptogens such as Indian gooseberry (Amla) or Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero) [3]. This property is why it has been linked to counteract ageing and fatigue, with one study suggesting that Rhodiola root extract protects keratinocytes (outermost skin cells) against oxidative stress [4].

Other animal research also suggests that Rhodiola may improve mood by regulating the activity of serotonin (chemical responsible for our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness), dopamine (messenger involved in reward, motivation, memory and attention) and norepinephrine (stress hormone) [5], with further studies linking its use with improved cerebral metabolism. Its ability to regulate these hugely important processes suggest that the herb can noticeably improve learning and memory function [2].

How do you take Rhodiola as a supplement?

Like many herbs, Rhodiola rosea is available in the form of capsules, tablets, dried powder and liquid extract. From the research, the best way to feel the benefits of Rhodiola is to take it on an empty stomach, but not before bedtime, as it has a slight stimulatory effect [6]

The optimal dose of rhodiola for improving symptoms of stress, fatigue or depression is 400–600 mg in a single dose per day [7]

If you are after Rhodiola’ s performance-enhancing effects, take 200–300 mg an hour or two before exercise [8]

Are there any side effects?

Side effects of rhodiola rosea are generally rare and mild to moderate. They may include headache, stomach upset, drowsiness, dizziness, and difficulty sleeping.

We recommend speaking to a health care professional before taking Rhodiola with other medication. Some medications taken in combination with Rhodiola may cause slight drowsiness, examples include benzodiazepines, SSRIs or SNRIs. Avoid taking Rhodiola if you are taking MAOIs. Also, do not take Rhodiola if you are breast-feeding or pregnant.

References

[1] “Rhodiola | NCCIH.” https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/rhodiola (accessed Feb. 19, 2021).

[2] G. Ma et al., “Rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms,” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 9, p. 1415, Dec. 2018, doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.01415.

[3] T. S. Chen, S. Y. Liou, and Y. L. Chang, “Antioxidant evaluation of three adaptogen extracts,” American Journal of Chinese Medicine, vol. 36, no. 6, pp. 1209–1217, 2008, doi: 10.1142/S0192415X08006533.

[4] C. Calcabrini et al., “Rhodiola rosea ability to enrich cellular antioxidant defences of cultured human keratinocytes,” Archives of Dermatological Research, vol. 302, no. 3, pp. 191–200, Aug. 2010, doi: 10.1007/s00403-009-0985-z.

[5] A. Schieber and D. Lopes-Lutz, “Analytical Methods - Functional Foods and Dietary Supplements,” in Comprehensive Biotechnology, Second Edition, vol. 4, Elsevier Inc., 2011, pp. 487–499.

[6] M. Perfumi and L. Mattioli, “Adaptogenic and central nervous system effects of single doses of 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside Rhodiola rosea L. extract in mice,” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 37–43, Jan. 2007, doi: 10.1002/ptr.2013.

[7] D. Edwards, A. Heufelder, and A. Zimmermann, “Therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiol rose extract WSA® 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms - Results of an open-label study,” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 26, no. 8, pp. 1220–1225, 2012, doi: 10.1002/ptr.3712.

[8] K. de Bock, B. O. Eijnde, M. Ramaekers, and P. Hespel, “Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance,” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 298–307, 2004, doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.14.3.298.