Rhodiola: The Natural Adaptogen That Can Help Boost Physical and Mental Performance

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Rhodiola Rosea plant

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  • Rhodiola rosea is a traditional herbal treatment that helps ease fatigue, increase endurance and improve mood. When it comes to effective natural remedies, rhodiola is a tried and tested herb that’s been around for centuries
  • Find out how this traditional herbal medicine can help you live a healthier life

The demands of everyday life may sometimes leave you feeling mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Fortunately, there are different ways to cope with stress. In addition to doing stress-relieving activities like meditation and exercise, you can also look to natural supplements, particularly adaptogens, to help balance your mind and body. Adaptogens are natural substances that help fight off the negative effects of stress, and one such adaptogen that I recommend is the rhodiola rosea supplement.

Rhodiola rosea is a traditional herbal treatment that helps ease fatigue, increase endurance and improve mood. When it comes to effective natural remedies, rhodiola is a tried and tested herb that's been around for centuries. Whether you want to recover faster from a hardcore exercise routine or you simply wish to ease your anxiety, this valuable herbal supplement can give you the support your mind and body need.

What Is Rhodiola?

Known as the second most popular adaptogen (next to panax ginseng), rhodiola rosea, also called golden root or roseroot, is a perennial plant that's typically found in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia. It thrives on dry sandy grounds at high altitudes, and reaches a height between 12 to 30 inches.1 It also produces red, pink or yellow blossoms, and is fragrant when cut, which is why it's sometimes used as a substitute for roses.2

The extract of rhodiola root contains powerful adaptogens, which is why it's often made into a tonic in Russia, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia. Its shoots, leaves and stems are also edible, so they may be consumed raw or cooked. However, rhodiola has a slightly bitter taste that some people may find unappetizing.

If you want to consume this herbal medicine without the bitter taste, then taking it as a supplement is the best way to go. Some of the key active ingredients that make rhodiola such an effective supplement include:3

  • Rosavin
  • Rosaridin
  • Rosarin
  • Rosin
  • Salidroside
  • Tyrosol

However, not every rhodiola supplement available in the market contains the active ingredients mentioned above. In fact, the adaptogenic properties of this plant may change depending on where it came from. This is exactly why its source is one of the most important factors to consider before taking this supplement.

Rhodiola Sources: Where Does This Valuable Plant Come From?

While the home of rhodiola rosea is considered to be Russia, this plant is actually found in other geographical locations as well. It thrives in almost all countries in Europe. Scientific literatures even confirm its use in Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and Iceland. Moreover, this herbal medicine may be found in Middle Asia, where rhodiola tea is considered an effective treatment for cold and flu. It also grows in several places in America, including Alaska, Canada and California.4,5

Despite its availability in various countries, I believe that the best source of rhodiola rosea is still Siberia, Russia. If you're planning to take this supplement, make sure that its rhodiola ingredient came from Siberia. You should also check if it contains at least 3 percent rosavin and 1 percent salidroside to guarantee its quality and efficiency.6

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The Health Benefits That You Can Get From Rhodiola

The medicinal applications of rhodiola can be traced back to 77 A.D., when the Greek physician Dioscorides documented its use in the classic medical text known as "De Materia Medica."7 Recent studies also support its restorative and rejuvenating properties.8,9 Here are some of the top benefits of rhodiola rosea:10

  • Reduces occasional fatigue — Studies have shown that the adaptogenic effects of rhodiola rosea can help alleviate the physical and cognitive symptoms of fatigue, including moodiness, tiredness and headache.11,12
  • Boosts athletic performance — This herbal plant is known for its energizing effects, allowing you to do vigorous exercises with less effort. This is why it's popular among athletes.13
  • Increases cognitive ability — Rhodiola is a powerful nootropic. It can enhance your cognitive abilities, including memory, associative thinking, calculation, concentration and capacity for mental work.14
  • Helps fight depression — Studies show that rhodiola rosea can help lessen mild to moderate depression if taken twice a day on a daily basis.15
  • Reduces stress — The therapeutic effects of rhodiola rosea helps promote a positive response to stress.16
  • Aids in muscle recovery — Rhodiola rosea increases the level of RNA, enzyme and proteins in the body, effectively stimulating muscle recovery and shortening the recovery time between workouts.17

Other Uses of Rhodiola for Your Heart Health, Immune System and More

Aside from easing fatigue, mood imbalances and anxiety, rhodiola rosea has also been used for other medicinal application throughout the years. In Tibet and Mongolia, it's traditionally used to alleviate lung problems, such as cough, asthma and other respiratory infections.

Modern studies also show that rhodiola has the ability to decrease the amount of catecholamines and corticosteroids in the body — these are stress hormones that may raise blood pressure, cholesterol and potassium. Plus, it helps reduce the risk of cardiac problems by eliminating harmful blood lipids.18

Rhodiola may also be used for helping stimulate and protect the immune system because it can normalize the hormones and regulate the glucocorticoid levels in your body.19 Moreover, it's found to help improve hearing, regulate blood sugar levels and protect the liver from environmental toxins.20 Researchers also hope for its use in anti-cancer therapy since it contains anti-cancer and anti-mutagenic properties.21

Numerous Studies Support the Benefits of Rhodiola

The popularity of rhodiola rosea in traditional Chinese, Russian and Scandinavian medicine prompted many researchers to conduct studies on its efficiency. Most of these studies led to positive results, further confirming the health benefits of this valuable medicinal plant. Its ability to improve mental and physical performance remains one of the most widely researched benefits of rhodiola rosea.

A study conducted by the Department of Neurology in Yerevan State Medical University focused on the effect of this herbal medicine on a group of physicians who are on night-duty. It was given in low doses for a period of six weeks. The results show that the physicians who took rhodiola exhibit better perceptive functions and lower level of mental fatigue.22

Another intriguing study on rhodiola rosea investigated its adaptogenic effects on a group of foreign students during a stressful examination period. Again, the results show enhancement of physical and mental well-being. In fact, the students who took rhodiola got scores that are 8.4 percent higher than the students who took placebo.23

Some researchers also suggest that rhodiola rosea may be beneficial for the treatment of cancer and Parkinson's disease. Although it's by no means a cure for these illnesses, studies have shown that rhodiola may be used as supportive therapies due to its adaptogenic, anti-cancer and anti-mutagenic properties.24,25

How Much Is the Ideal Daily Dosage of Rhodiola Rosea?

Rhodiola rosea supplement must also be taken according to the recommended dosage. The amount of rhodiola that you should take depends on different factors, including your health condition, weight and age. If you're considering this as a supplement, then you should talk to a physician to find out the right dose for your needs.

The usual clinic dosage for this supplement is 200 to 600 milligrams (mg) per day. However, it may even be effective in doses as low as 50 mg daily. People who are using this to alleviate depression may increase their dosage to 680 mg.26 Rhodiola rosea is also taken orally, ideally on an empty stomach.27

Keep in mind that rhodiola has a bell-curve effect, which means that its efficiency does not increase if you raise you dosage. In fact, it may even become ineffective, so you shouldn't take more than 680 mg of this supplement per day.28 Going beyond this dosage may cause serious side effects.

What Are the Side Effects of Rhodiola?

Although rhodiola rosea has very few side effects, there are still individuals who experience unwanted changes in mood, energy level and mental clarity after taking this supplement. Most of the individuals who experience these are susceptible to anxiety. Dosage may also be a factor in the occurrence of the following side effects:29,30



Vivid dreams that may interfere with sleep (this usually occurs during the first weeks of taking rhodiola)

Dry mouth

Blood pressure fluctuations

It's important to note that individuals with bipolar disorder are discouraged to take this supplement, as its antidepressant effect may cause them to become manic.

Adapting Healthy Lifestyle Strategies Is the Best Way to Avoid Stress and Improve Your Mind and Body

Although rhodiola rosea is a potent natural adaptogen that can help you deal with everyday stress, you can't just always rely on it when it comes to improving your brainpower and energy. Keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to a healthy, stress-free brain and body.

In addition to taking rhodiola supplement, I recommend doing meditation to relieve your stress and energize your body. It's also best to consume high-quality protein and veggie-type carbs, especially before and after you work out. Lastly, make sure that you're getting a good night's sleep, as this is the best way to restore your energy and brainpower.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Rhodiola

Q: Is rhodiola good for you?

A: Yes. Rhodiola rosea is a good supplement for your mind and body since its adaptogenic properties bring various health-promoting effects, which include improved endurance, better overall well-being and reduced stress levels.

Q: Is rhodiola safe?

A: Yes. Rhodiola is absolutely safe when taken in proper doses. However, it's still unclear whether this supplement is safe for pregnant women and children, so it's best to avoid it if you fall in one of these categories.31

Q: How much rhodiola should I take?

A: The ideal clinical dose for rhodiola supplement is between 200 mg to 600 mg per day. However, keep in mind that the dosage also depends on various factors, including your age, weight, health conditions and current medical prescriptions. Talk to a physician to find out the right amount of rhodiola that you should take.32

Q: How long does rhodiola rosea take to work?

A: The effects of rhodiola rosea are usually felt 2 to 3 hours after intake.33

Q: Can rhodiola cause anxiety?

A: No, rhodiola rosea does not cause anxiety. However, if you already have an anxiety disorder, you must take this supplement only if your physician advises you to, as it may worsen the symptoms of anxiety if used incorrectly. Some of the possible side effects that it may cause include restlessness and irritability.34