What is Rhodiola Rosea?
Rhodiola Rosea is an herb that grows in cold climates around the world. It is commonly found in Siberia and high-altitude mountainous regions in Europe, China, and North America. People in arctic regions have used this plant to treat anxiety, fatigue, and depression for many centuries.
This herb is considered a member of a group of plants known as Adaptogens. Adaptogens are traditionally considered plants that help the human body adapt to stress. They help with physical, chemical, and environmental stress and are considered non-toxic.
This amazing plant contains around 140 different chemical components. The most studied active components in Rhodiola are called rosavin and salidroside. These two constituents have been the subject of numerous research studies. Due to the effectiveness of these compounds, it is suggested that you purchase a standardized extract containing 2-3% rosavin and .8-1% salidroside.
Russian scientists have studied this herb extensively, using it to improve physical performance, endurance, and mental acuity and to fight fatigue. Some studies even suggest that it helps to treat anxiety and combat depression.
Let’s take a closer look at this amazing adaptogen.
1.) Physical Performance
Research suggests that the consumption of Rhodiola improves physical endurance. A study conducted on 14 athletes over the course of 4 weeks showed that Rhodiola consumption reduced free fatty acid usage by the body. This is a marker of how efficiently the body utilizes fats for energy. By consuming less energy to perform the same amount of work, the athletes could engage in physical activity for longer periods with less fatigue. Additionally, blood lactate and plasma creatine kinase levels were found to be significantly lower in Rhodiola Rosea-treated subjects when compared to the placebo-treated group. Plasma creatine kinase is a byproduct of muscle breakdown. Blood lactate levels are evidence of muscular fatigue. By reducing these two byproducts, this study shows that Rhodiola may reduce exercise-induced muscular damage and fatigue. (1)
2.) Mental Clarity
Rhodiola may also be able to moderate the effects of stress-related mental fatigue. A study with 60 participants was randomized for treatment with either SHR-5 (a standardized Rhodiola extract) or a placebo. The group taking SHR-5 showed improvements in mental burnout, increases in attention span, and enhanced mental performance. Interestingly scientists also found a decrease in waking cortisol levels. Waking cortisol is a salivary test to measure the levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol after subjects wake from sleep. Participants showed significant improvement in cortisol levels following treatment with SHR-5. (2) These effects can be greatly enhanced by adopting a stress-reducing program in addition to the consumption of Rhodiola.
A 2007 Swedish study of Rhodiola Rosea for the treatment of mild to moderate depression found statistically significant reduction in depression following 45 days of treatment. Using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) researchers found that patients’ scores improved when taking low and high doses of Rhodiola extract. The placebo group, however, did not experience any improvement. (3)
After treatment with Rhodax, a Rhodiola extract, scientists observed improvements in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Researchers observed a group of participants over 10 weeks and monitored their improvement with the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS). The size of the study was small, but patients showed improvement in their symptoms overall. This led researchers to say Rhodiola warranted further study as a potential treatment for GAD. (4)
5.) Strengthens the Immune System
Rhodiola Rosea has been shown to significantly increase levels of TH1 cytokines in the human immune system. TH1 cells produce interferon and Interluken 2. Interferon is an immune system product that inhibits viral reproduction. Interleukin 2 is an immunity cell that regulates the activity of white blood cells. By increasing these products, Rhodiola can strengthen the immune response to infection, thus making the immune system more effective. This effect is very advantageous unless a person has an autoimmune disease. Since autoimmune diseases involve the body’s immune system attacking itself, people with this condition should not ingest Rhodiola. (5)
It is suggested that Rhodiola should be taken at a starting dose of 100mg a day. If this dosage is well tolerated then it is possible to increase the dosage by 100mg per week up to a maximum dosage of 400mg per day.
Most people tolearate Rhodiola Rosea very well and do not experience any side effects. This herb has been demonstrated to be safe for consumption for 6-10 weeks. The safety of long-term use, however, is unknown. Some people have reported dizziness or dry mouth when taking Rhodiola. Some users also report feeling excess energy levels perceived as jitteriness. If any of this is experienced, stop taking this herb and consult a healthcare practitioner.
Pregnancy & BreastFeeding: There isn’t any reliable information about taking Rhodiola while pregnant or breastfeeding, so it is best to avoid consumption under these circumstances.
Autoimmune Diseases: Since Rhodiola can increase the functioning of the immune system, its use is discouraged for patients with autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, M.S., Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc…
Diabetes: Exercise caution since Rhodiola may decrease blood sugar levels. This could be problematic for individuals taking insulin or other diabetes medications.
Low Blood Pressure: Rhodiola can potentially reduce blood pressure. People taking blood pressure medication or naturally low blood pressure should exercise caution when taking Rhodiola.
Final Thoughts on Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is an amazing herb for dealing with the stressors of life. It increases physical and mental performance while reducing the physiological effects of stress on the body and mind. It boost immunity in times when we may feel “run down” and Rhodiola may even be effective in the treatment of depression. This herb is a potent tool that you should consider for your herbal toolbox. With all herbs and supplements, please consult a healthcare practitioner before using this powerful herb. With their guidance, you can determine if Rhodiola is right for you and what dosage and dosing schedule is optimal. Enjoy exploring!
Come into Hummingbird Wellness in Boulder, CO., to find out more.