What Is Rhodiola Rosea?
Rhodiola Rosea also known as Arctic Root, Golden Root, Roseroot, Hong Jing Tian and others, is an herbal stress-busting supplement derived from a perennial plant belonging to the Crassulaceae family that grows in cold high altitude regions in Europe, Asia and eastern North America.
This plant has a long history of traditional uses as folk medicine, dating back centuries throughout the world. It was used to help combat fatigue, increase work productivity, resist high altitude sickness and to treat depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal ailments, impotence and infections.
Rhodiola Rosea is also said to have been used by Vikings to encourage physical stamina and prescribed in Mongolia for cancer and tuberculosis.
The flowers of this plant were traditionally used to make tea and the roots as tonics. Today, the roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of this plant is what is generally used in Rhodiola supplements.
The root of this plant is believed to contain over 140 chemical compounds including groups of flavonoids, monoterpenes, triterpenes, phenolic acids, phenylpropanoids and phenylethanol. Rosavins (which is unique to Rhodiola Rosea) and salidroside are considered to be the two most potent among them and thought to play the largest role in the physical and mental benefits of this supplement.
Studies on the pharmacological activities of Rhodiola suggests the plant exhibits many useful properties including antioxidant, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anti-depressive, anti-fatigue and adaptogenic effects.
In fact, Rhodiola Rosea is considered to be one of the most widely known adaptogens which are defined as non-toxic (in proper doses), natural substances found in a unique class of healing plants that are associated with helping the body cope, adapt and maintain balance (homeostasis) during prolonged periods of stress.
Today, user reviews online indicate taking Rhodiola extract for many purposes including to relieve stress, boost energy, combat mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, fight fatigue, enhance mental performance and to help reduce symptoms of “burn out”.
Let’s take a closer look at the associated benefits of Rhodiola Rosea, how this herbal supplement works and the suggested dosage guidelines to reap this herb’s most powerful effects.
Rhodiola Benefits For Coping with Stress
The primary benefits associated with Rhodiola Rosea extract is in its potential capacity to reduce the symptoms of mental and physical fatigue associated with exposure to prolonged periods of stress while promoting optimized related mental capacities such as memory, cognition, concentration and general capacity for mental work.
Rhodiola Rosea is considered a powerful adaptogen or natural compound which helps the body restore balance and normal function after exposure to stressors. Individuals dealing consistently with hectic work schedules, difficult situations, pressure, burn out effects and even those suffering from chronic fatigue may find the effects of this supplement very beneficial.
The effects of Rhodiola on symptoms of life stress such as fatigue, poor attention and its relation to quality of life were observed in a study over a four week period involving 60 individuals with stress-related fatigue. One group was given 576 mg of the extract per day the other a placebo pill. It was found that it had a positive effect on levels of fatigue and especially concentration compared to placebo.
In another study, Rhodiola has shown to reduce or alleviate many of the physical symptoms to a relevant, clinical degree that is associated with life stress which includes muscle soreness, headaches, low energy, moodiness, agitation, depression and more with observed improvements even after 3 days of administration.
Finally, research suggests chronic stress and conditions of excess cortisol negatively affect brain function and induces fatigue which can lead to short-term issues with low mood, memory, mental fog and an inability to concentrate and focus.
Research and studies have repeatedly suggested that Rhodiola positively effects mental performance under stress. The Nootropic potential of this supplement may be primarily due to its effects on potentially reducing fatigue, however, its actions and efficacy are still being investigated.
Rhodiola Rosea Effects on Mood
Anecdotally, users have long reported the positive mood effects of Rhodiola Rosea saying the herb is effective for enhancing mood and relieving stress and depression. Data from clinical trials suggest that specific extracts of this herb may be helpful in reducing symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, the efficacy and safety of Rhodiola Rosea extract (SHR-5) on patients ages 18-70 years old, diagnosed with mild to moderate depression was investigated over a 6 week period. The reported twice daily doses (340-680 mg in total per day) given to the non-placebo group was observed to significantly lessen overall depression, insomnia, emotional instability and other symptoms with no reported serious side effects.
In addition, in another study investigating the potential effects of Rhodiola Rosea extract on anxiety, it was observed that a specific extract significantly improved symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Rosavin (additionally rosin and rosarin) is a unique compound that is specific to Rhodiola Rosea and hypothesized to be responsible for helping symptoms of low mood. This means when buying this supplement, it should contain no less than 3% rosavin and 1% Salidroside.
How Does Rhodiola Rosea Work?
Rhodiola Rosea is considered to possess a complex mode of action since it contains a large number of active compounds that may work in various ways to produce associated effects related to balancing the stress response and promoting mental energy, feelings of calmness, a boost in mood and enhanced cognitive capacity.
While the exact mechanisms of action are still being studied, some the active constituents appear to act as MAO inhibitors that slow the break down and increase the levels of important neurotransmitters, Dopamine, Serotonin and balance levels of Norepinephrine that are all associated with mood, productivity, focus, attention, alertness and involved in “the fight or flight response” during situations of stress.
It has also been suggested that Rhodiola Rosea may help maintain levels of Acetylcholine (ACh) by acting to inhibit acetylcholine esterase, an enzyme that breaks it down. This action may be responsible for the many reported Nootropic and memory enhancing properties of this herbal extract.
In addition, Rhodiola Rosea is believed to influence the HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) system, hindering the production and release of the stress hormone cortisol (primarily from the ingredient Rosavin) and an action which may additionally influence the release of opioid peptides like beta-endorphins which enhance stress tolerance and promote mood-lifting effects and feelings of well-being.
Finally, salidroside, an active ingredient in Rhodiola is believed to stimulate AMPK enzymes, giving them a wake-up call which plays a crucial role in maintaining energy balance and promotes more mitochondria within cells, or where energy production occurs.
Rhodiola Rosea: Side Effects & How to Use
Rhodiola is considered generally safe and well-tolerated for short-term use (up to 10 weeks) by adults taking 50 mg to as much as 600 mg daily with rare or few side effects reported.
However, side effects can occur but have tended to be reportedly dose-dependent and typically more pronounced in higher than recommended doses which include anxiety, difficulty sleeping, agitation, nausea, dizziness and restlessness.
How much an individual will need to reap the intended benefits of Rhodiola can depend on several factors such as weight, age, current general health and purpose for use. While some people use this herbal extract for daily stress and mental capacity in the lower daily dosage range, others that use it for anxiety or depression take 400 mg or more.
It is best to take Rhodiola on an empty stomach and preferably earlier in the day to avoid problems falling asleep. This supplement is available in capsule, tablet, liquid and powder form. Higher quality supplements contain approximately a 3 to 1 ratio of rosavin and salidroside, the two bioactive constituents of this plant.
Additionally, like all supplements, it is always a good idea to start at the lowest effective dosage and not increase it until you are sure how your body tolerates it. This can help eliminate or reduce the risk of side effects.
Rhodiola Rosea may interact with certain prescription and over the counter medications. You should consult with your doctor first before taking this herbal extract, especially if you are currently taking medication or have a medical condition.
Pregnant or nursing women, infants or children should not take this supplement due to lack of sufficient data.
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