Rhodiola rosea is an herb that is known for its ability to reduce fatigue and exhaustion in prolonged stressful situations.
It is also believed to have neuroprotective properties. It is being researched for several other health benefits, including cardioprotective, bone loss preserving and cancer fighting activity.
Rhodiola rosea has emerged as a popular adaptogen — a natural substance that helps the body function optimally during times of stress. Studies on animals and isolated neuronal cells have revealed that adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and central nervous system stimulating activity.
In addition, a number of clinical trials demonstrate that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity (1).
Adaptogens in general, but particularly rhodiola rosea, appear to be involved with promoting longevity.
Rhodiola rosea helps reduce fatigue. According to the journal, Planta Medica, root extract of rhodiola rosea helps individuals suffering from stress-related fatigue. In a clinical trial, 60 participants diagnosed with fatigue syndrome were given 576 mg extract/day or placebo for 28 days.
Results show that repeated administration of the extract exerted an anti-fatigue effect that increased mental performance — particularly the ability to concentrate — and decreased cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome (2).
No serious side effects that could be attributed to the extract were reported.
In another study, acute rhodiola rosea intake was shown to improve endurance exercise capacity in young healthy volunteers (3).
However, in one study involving nursing students with rigorous work shifts, supplementation of 384mg each morning with an optional half dose four hours later, failed to improve fatigue scores each week over 35 days and even increased fatigue relative to placebo at the end of the study (4).
More studies are needed to fully understand this herb’s role in reducing fatigue.
Rhodiola rosea helps relieve stress. Stress has long been known to have a negative impact on mental and physical health. And according to the American Psychology Association, a sizable proportion of the adult population does not feel they are doing enough to manage their stress (5).
Results of an open-label study, shows that rhodiola extract at a dose of 200 mg twice daily for 4 weeks, is safe and effective in improving stress symptoms. The study included 101 volunteers who were given seven questionnaires to self-assess symptoms.
All tests showed clinically relevant improvements with regard to stress symptoms, disability, functional impairment and overall therapeutic effect. Improvements were observed even after three days of treatment, as were continuing improvements after one and four weeks (6).
Rhodiola rosea has neuroprotective and antioxidant and activity. Neuroprotection is an effect that results in the salvage, recovery or regeneration of the nervous system, its cells, structure and function. Neuronal degeneration has been linked to such diseases as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other chronic nervous system diseases (7).
Salidroside, the main active ingredient extracted from rhodiola rosea, has been shown to be neuroprotective in ischemic cerebral injury (as a result of stroke).
In one rat study, researchers found that supplementation with 30 mg/kg of extract reduced infarct size, improved neurological function, histological changes and increased the Nrf2 pathway and heme oxygenase-1 expression — a cytoprotective enzyme that responds to oxidative stress and/or inflammation, and has been speculated that it might be a new therapeutic target for neuroprotection.
It is believed that salidroside (and therefore, rhodiola rosea) has a potential neuroprotective effect against ischemic stroke in humans (8).
Other animal studies show that salidroside holds potential as a neuroprotective agent after nerve injuries. In one study, 5 or 10 mg/kg bodyweight injected daily into rats with a sciatic nerve crush injury achieved functionally successful nerve regeneration (9).
Rhodiola rosea appears to reduce depression symptoms. The aim of a study (published in a 2007 issue of Nordic Journal of Psychiatry), was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of standardized extract of rhodiola rosea in patients suffering from a current episode of mild to moderate depression.
Participants, males and females aged 18-70 years, were separated into three groups: one group received two tablets daily of the extract (340 mg/day), a second received two tablets twice per day (680 mg/day), and a third received two placebo tablets daily.
Treatment lasted six weeks; in groups one and two, overall depression, together with insomnia and emotional instability improved significantly following medication (10).
No serious side-effects were reported in any of the groups.
Rhodiola rosea appears to help relieve anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, GAD affects approximately 6.8 million adults in any given year (11).
In a pilot study, 10 participants (between the ages of 34 and 55) recruited from the UCLA Anxiety Disorders Program, received a total daily dose of 340 mg of rhodiola rosea extract for 10 weeks.
Significant improvement in GAD symptoms was found, with a reduction in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale scores (a widely used and well-validated tool for measuring the severity of a patient’s anxiety). These preliminary findings warrant further exploration in clinical trials (12).
Adverse events were generally mild or moderate in severity, the most common being dizziness and dry mouth.
In most human trials, there were no severe side effects reported; some mild to moderate side effects may include dizziness and dry mouth.
A case of fast and irregular heart beat has been reported with simultaneous use of rhodiola and an antidepressant (13).
Daily usage of rhodiola rosea to help protect against fatigue has been reported to be effective in doses as low as 50mg.
Acute usage of supplementation for fatigue and anti-stress has been noted to be taken in the 288-680mg range.
Rhodiola rosea is an herb known as a popular adaptogen — a natural substance that helps the body function optimally during times of stress. In addition to its ability to reduce fatigue and exhaustion in prolonged stressful situations, this herb exhibits neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive and anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) effects. It has also been shown to improve exercise endurance in healthy volunteers.
In most human trials, there were no severe side effects reported; some mild to moderate side effects, including dizziness and dry mouth were noted.