Rhodiola Rosea Benefits – Ancient Tonic for Modern Problems

Rumors tell that the Vikings used the rhodiola rosea to increase their physical strength and stamina before going to battle. But in this article, we are focusing how modern people can benefit from this plant.

What is Rhodiola rosea?

“To meet the demands and pressures of life in today’s fast-paced, high stress world, Rhodiola appears ideal. In human studies using extracts of the root, Rhodiola fights fatigue, combats stress, and possesses both antioxidant and anticancer properties. Rhodiola protects body and mind against oxygen deprivation, enhances overall immune function, and promotes healthy sexual function in men and women.” – Rhodiola Rosea: The Ultimate Power Herb

In the Nordic countries rhodiola rosea has been used traditionally as a tonic herb to fight against fatigue and stress. In Chinese medicine it is used to improving mental function, mood, physical strength and endurance, as well for relieving mountain sickness.

Rhodiola rosea is said to be an adaptogen, that helps your body to adopt against variety of conditions such as lack of sleep, mental stress, as well a heat and cold.

Rhodiola rosea effects come from the chemical compounds called rosavins, salidrosides and flavonoids.

Rhodiola rosea grows best in the northern hemisphere in at high altitude mountainous areas. You may come across to it in northern Europe, Russia and Asia.

Rhodiola rosea is often referred to under the following names: Golden root, Northern ginseng, Rose root, Arctic root, Hong jing tian.

rhodiola rosea benefits
Rhodiola rosea is one of the nature’s most well-known herbs to fight against fatigue and stress. (Picture source)

Rhodiola rosea benefits and studies

Rhodiola rosea, or Golden root is a relatively well-known and successful product commercially. It is currently marketed mainly for its benefits on to fight fatigue and stress, but it appears to have other benefits also. Please note these are just my notes for information purposes, not a medical advice. Here is couple studies cite:

Rhodiola rosea combats fatigue?
Rhodiola rosea is generally one of the nature’s most well-known herbs to fight against fatigue. This has also been found in many studies which have investigated its ability to fight fatigue and stress.

Rhodiola rosea effects against fatigue was tested on a medical students who worked long hours and night shifts. The study revealed that a rhodiola rosea had a clear effect in alleviating fatigue without reported side effects. – Source (pdf)

Another double-blind study in a same style with 17-19-year students showed the same result. Rhodiola rosea group had significant improvements in the following tests: physical fitness, psychomotor agitation, fatigue, and general well-being. No adverse events occurred, Source (pdf)

Rhodiola Rosea to relieve stress?
It can not change difficult life situation for sure, but it might help your body adapt to stressful situations better. Adaptogens such as rhodiola rosea will help to strengthen the body and its ability to get along with anxiety and stress. Adaptogens are said to work the same way as a thermostat – they add energy when you are tired, and in a stressful situation they soothe and normalize the body’s imbalances.

When you are stressed, your cortisol hormone levels raises, body is producing fight-or-flight response, and if it continues for a too long time (chronic stress), it might cause a very serious threat to your health and longevity. Rhodiola rosea has been shown to relieve stress and stabilize cortisol levels, according to following studies:

Stress relieving effect of rhodiola rosea was tested in Sweden with 20-55 aged persons with stress-related fatigue. It was shown to reduce the secretion of cortisol, increase performance and ability to focus, in a people suffering from burnout. The group who got the rhodiola rosea had significantly lower cortisol levels than the placebo group. – According to this study

The same results were also demonstrated in a study conducted in China, which tested rhodiola rosea and Ginkgo bilobas effects in a healthy humans. Cortisol levels in a rhodiola and ginkgo group remained at the same levels as before the test, but in the placebo group cortisol levels increased substantially. – According to this study/a>.

For more information, see the following article: Reducing the Risks of High Cortisol.

Rhodiola rosea and sex drive?
Many people experience that using rhodiola increases sexual desire, which is not surprising because adaptogens often raise sexual desires.

But aS far I know, there is no proper research on this subject, and rhodiola does not have any special sex drive-boosting ingredients. But if your low sex drive is caused due stress or fatigue then it might help.

The study that was done in the Soviet Union: 35 men with erectile dysfunction, or premature ejaculation. They took 150-200mg rhodiola rosea daily, and after three months use: 26 of men saw a big improvement in erectile dysfunction and sexual activity – According to this article.

Rhodiola rosea for anxiety and fears?
Rhodiola rosea has a good reputation in alleviating anxiety and social anxiety, as some people experience very calm and peaceful state after using rhodiola. However, studies on the subject gives only indicative results and more research is needed before anyone can do proper conclusions.

In this study Rhodiola rosea relieved the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, at least based on the HARS results. However the study had a significant shortcomings: no placebo group and the sample size was very small.

Anxiolytic (anxiety mitigating) effect has also been observed with animal studies Source.

In my opinion: for most L-teanine is better for social anxiety and it has much less possible side effects.

Other benefits:
Rhodiola rosea has been shown to help in mild depression – According to: Swedish Rhodiola Rosea Extract Effective In Treating Mild To Moderate Depression In New Clinical Trial

Rhodiola rosea does not give you muscles of a Vikings, but for trainers and athletes it seems to offer more stamina: Just one capsule of Rhodiola is enough to improve your stamina

Physician & doctor cited rhodiola rosea benefits:

The most persuasive evidence for its efficacy in treating health conditions came from a 2011 review of 11 human studies, all placebo-controlled. After concluding that all of the studies were of either moderate or good quality, the summary analysis concluded rhodiola may indeed improve physical and mental performance and alleviate certain mood disorders. The researchers also said adverse event reports were rare. Other studies have shown specific effects against mild-to-moderate depression and generalized anxiety. – Dr Weils rhodiola herbal remedies

Rhodiola Rosea benefits from studies summarized: Might help to and ease stress, fatigue, restlessness, and might also help with a mild depression. Improves mental performance, and increase sexual desire at least in some people. Making it ideal for stress, fatigue and possibly for athletes.

Rhodiola rosea safety and toxity

Very few adverse effects have been noted in studies. Large doses, such as more than 2 grams per a day can cause possible side effects.

Pregnancy: Rhodiola rosea is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers, because has not yet been enough studies with pregnant womans.

Pharmaceutical drug users:

Antidepressants user – Never use rhodiola rosea. Although some practitioners recommend a rhodiola rosea for the initial therapy for a mild depression, they never recommend it to be used at the same time with any type antidepressants (SSRI, MAOI), since there is not enough studies about the subject. Basically in theory rhodiola rosea might raise the serotonin levels, so it is possible that the rhodiola rosea and the combined use of antidepressants can cause a serotonin syndrome.

(There is at least one known case where the use of a SSRIs and a rhodiola rosea might have caused arrhythmia, which is one symptom of the serotonin syndrome. Source PDF.)

You should consult your doctor before using rhodiola if you are taking blood pressure drugs, ACE inhibitors, anticoagulants, or a blood thinners.

If you are suffering from bipolar disorder is not recommended to use rhodiola rosea, because it can lead to a manic state.

And as always it might wise to consult your doctor before using rhodiola if are using medication or suffering from a medical condition.

Rhodiola rosea is MAOI?
Rhodiola may have monoamine oxidase inhibitor-like properties, which of course could lead to very serious side effects with certain foods and drugs …

In this laboratory study (in vitro), found that the rhodiola components can act as MAO-A and MAO-B inhibitors. However oral ingestion of rhodiola rosea has not been found to have the same effect. As the blood-brain barrier may potentially prevent the component from getting into the central nervous system. – Examine, 4.1

Rhodiola Rosea is a very popular and widely used nutritional supplement, and there isnt proper research that confirms that oral ingestion of a rhodiola rosea would work as an effective monoamine oxidase inhibitor. But as always I suggest you to make your own research on the subject.

There is some experiences where user of a rhodiola rosea received a very severe symptoms when eating a lot of cheese. (For example here). I have not yet received any symptoms even if I have taken a lot rhodiola rosea, cheese and sauerkraut on the same day.

If you’re a hardcore rhodiola user (more than 2 grams per day, which is not recommended). You might want to avoid tyramine-containing foods: cheese, dried meat, canned fish, sauerkraut, beer, wine + all food and beverages produced by fermentation.

Rhodiola rosea possible side effects
– Large amount of coffee and rhodiola rosea at the same time can cause hyper activity, anxiety, or irregular heartbeat. (Not recommended to be taken at the same time with coffee)
– Excessive carbohydrate blowout at the same time when you take the rhodiola rosea may reduce its absorption.
– Rhodiola rosea is not recommended to be taken in the evening, because it may interfere with sleep or cause a vivid dreams.
– Dry mouth.

Toxic dose
Toxic dose is about 3360 mg per 1 kilogram of body weight, which has been tested with rats (lethal dose). Meaning: 150 pound adult would have to eat at least 230 grams of rhodiola in order to receive a toxic dose. – according to this article.

Suggested usage
Rhodiola Rosea should be taken in a morning on an empty stomach before breakfast. You can take it twice a day if you want, but it works best on an empty stomach.

Rhodiola Rosea is a good substitute for coffee, but it is not suitable to be taken with stimulants such as coffee. Its suggested to take break between rhodiola and coffee (at least half an hour).

Daily dose doenst matter much as long you do not take more than 600mg daily. In several studies maximum dosage is at 680mg per day, and the higher dosages does not seem to do any good.

In general, the recommended daily dose is about 100-600mg. If you take it for stress, or train hard, you might able to see better results if you take higher doses, but not more than 600mg.

With alcohol and water extracts you should follow the instructions on the bottle. In general self-testing is the best way to find optimal dosage for yourself.

Most people see the effect of rhodiola rosea in a couple of days, while others need up to 3 weeks (depending on the genes, fitness, lifestyle). If you do not see the result after 40 days, you can be almost sure that rhodiola rosea is not suitable for you.

Rhodiola rosea is not suitable for long term use. As its an adaptogen and the body can become immune for it, if you use it a long-time. Use only when you need more power or you are under stress / fatigue.

Recommended products

Most of the rhodiola rosea studies have been conducted either on a standardized extract containing 2-3% and 1% rosavines and salidrosides, or with an SHR-5 extract, so it makes sense to choose one of these. I am personally using these 4 products.

Alcohol extracts:best rhodiola rosea product
The way rhodiola rosea has been used traditionally for hundreds of years. Alcoholic extracts are easy and convenient way to get the benefits from the herbs.

Herb Pharm Rhodiola Extract
Dried whole rhodiola rosea root extracted in alcohol with 1:5 ratio. The manufacturer Herb Pharm has made extracts for more than 35 years, so they know something about the subject. Rosevine / salidroside content not reported. Cheap and worth of testing.

Rhodiola Extracts
Life Extension Rhodiola Extract – Standardized to 3% rosavin 1% salidrosides. 250mg capsules.
NOW Foods Rhodiola Rhodiola Rosea – Standardized to 3% rosavin 1% salidrosides. 500mg capsules.
Swedish Herbal Institute Rhodiola Rosea – Swedish SHR-5 extract. Manufacturer is small and the product is very popular. Worth testing, if available.

If you live outside of U.S, for example in Russia, Singapore, Brazil or Europe, then your best and and probably cheapest choice is iHerb.com which ships to over 150 different countries.

From iHerb:
Herb Pharm Rhodiola
Life Extension Rhodiola Extract
Now Foods Rhodiola
Swedish SHR-5 extract

I started taking Rhodiola when I moved across the world, was having tremendous trouble with anxiety and some depression, and didn’t want to take a pharmaceutical. A therapist recommended I try Rhodiola, and I am so glad I did. Within five days, I started to feel like myself again, and within two weeks, I was truly out of the constant cycle of anxiety and misery. Rhodiola of course isn’t a cure-all, but has certainly been an amazing tool for me to battle my mental difficulties without synthetic chemicals. – Review from Now Foods rhodiola user. More reviews here (click reviews)

If you have not yet ordered from iHerb.com, you’ll get $5 off from your first order, if you order for more than $40 dollars you’ll get $10 off. You get the discount code automatically from my links and while you’ll benefit from this, I also benefit by getting “iHerb credits” that I can use towards my next orders. Thank you for this!

Rhodiola rosea has a long history of use, it has been studied extensively and it is relatively safe when used properly. Studies show that it has the potential to relieve stress and fatigue, but its not a miracle pill, so dont expect too much from it. And as with all supplements and vitamins with the only science that really matters is how the substance works in your body. Rhodiola rosea is worth of testing, especially if you suffer from stress or fatigue.

More reading

Studies from examine.com
The Journal of the American Botanical Council Rhodiola
The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.
Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review
What Is Rhodiola Used for Today?
Rhodiola for What Ails You?

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