Need help coping with stress, an added boost of energy or an alleviation of the blues? Rhodiola rosea is a powerful tonic herb touted in Northern Europe, Russia and Asia to support immunity, enhance mental acuity, boost energy, increase libido and alleviate depression. Greek physician Dioscorides even mentions rhodiola in his classic medical text “De Materia Medica.” If you are looking for an herbal ally, rhodiola might be just the ticket, but check with your doctor first.
Rhodiola is considered a classical adaptogen – an herb that can strengthen the body and bring it back into balance. Adaptogens are also thought to help the body deal with chronic stress, and rhodiola has proved in a number of clinical trials to do just that. According to research published in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology,” a standardized extract of rhodiola limited the negative behavioral patterns of mice exposed to mild, chronic stressors. Rhodiola may also benefit people who experience a decline in work performance, mental clarity, ability to sleep or appetite; fatigue; headaches; and hypertension following intense mental or physical strain. Rhodiola has been used by athletes to increase performance and endurance as well as by students to improve concentration.
Another of rhodiola's apparent actions is alleviating the symptoms of depression, demonstrated in a number of scientific studies. A study published in “Phytotherapy Research” revealed that a single dose of rhodiola given to mice had antidepressant and anxiety-relieving effects. In another, double-blind study, scientists in Europe tested a standardized extract of rhodiola in doses of 340 milligrams per day and 680 milligrams per day for six weeks; both rhodiola groups saw an improvement in symptoms of depression, while the placebo group did not. Rhodiola may help boost mood and alleviate other symptoms of depression including insomnia.
If rhodiola's powerful adaptogenic effects weren't enough, there is also evidence to suggest that it can support immune function and may even have anticancer properties. Rhodiola is a powerful antioxidant, potentially protecting the cells from oxidative damage, according to a study published in the “Archives of Dermatological Research.” In this study, rhodiola was shown to protect human keratinocytes – a form of skin cell – against damage from free radicals. While much of the scientific research on rhodiola is from in vitro or animal studies, the potential benefits of this renowned root are promising.
Suggestions for Use
Most rhodiola extracts contain the main phytochemical constituent called salidroside. The suggested extract dose is between 170 to 185 milligrams a day supplying 4.5 milligrams of salidroside, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center. When rhodiola is used as a one-time treatment, two to three times that dose is often given. No known adverse effects from rhodiola have been found in clinical trials, but there have not been comprehensive studies on its safety, so it is best avoided in cases of pregnancy, lactation, in children and for people suffering from serious liver or kidney disorders. Tonic herbs like rhodiola are often given for an extended period of time in order to confer the full benefit, but rhodiola should be discontinued in the case of an acute illness -- its stimulating properties can make symptoms worse.
- Herbwisdom.com: Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)
- Journal of Psychopharmacology: Effects of Rhodiola Rosea L. Extract on Behavioural and Physiological Alterations Induced by Chronic Mild Stress in Female Rats
- Alternative Medicine Review: Rhodiola Rosea: a Possible Plant Adaptogen
- NYU Langone Medical Center: Rhodiola Rosea
- Phytotherapy Research: Adaptogenic and Central Nervous System Effects of Single Doses of 3% Rosavin and 1% Salidroside Rhodiola Rosea L. Extract in Mice
- Noric Journal of Psychiatry: Clinical Trial of Rhodiola Rosea L. Extract SHR-5 in the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Depression
- Archives of Dermatological Research: Rhodiola Rosea Ability to Enrich Cellular Antioxidant Defences of Cultured Human Keratinocytes
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.