Rhodiola benefits include calming the nervous system and relieving anxiety disorders in addition to improving energy and mood. Discover more about this arctic root and why rhodiola extract is regarded as one of the best herbal supplements for stress.
What is Rhodiola Root?
Rhodiola rosea is the Rocky Balboa of medicinal herbs. It’s a pugilistic plant that can duke it out for 15 rounds without breaking a sweat.
It gets punched in the face by severe weather: sub-zero temperature and gale-force winds.
Yet rhodiola herb stands tall, perched proud without withering in the elements. It has to be hearty by nature. Otherwise, it would be no match for the brutal winters of Siberia and rugged mountains of northwest China.
Rhodiola has adapted to and thrives in Arctic environments.
Russian scientists began researching this tough as nails plant in the mid 20th century. They gave doses of rhodiola to soldiers, Olympic athletes, workers and other key cogs in the Soviet regime.
The researchers discovered that a few of the rhodiola benefits are increased mental, physical and athletic performance.
But that’s not all this ‘adaptogenic herb’ (adaptogen) can do.
Out of all the herbs and supplements on the market, several studies suggested that rhodiola is one of the best for helping with stress.
That’s why it’s classified as an ‘adaptogen’. Adaptogens help the body ‘adapt’ to stress and restore physical balance such as regulating blood pressure.
(Panax Ginseng and rhodiola rosea are two of the most popular adaptogens.)
Adaptogens work for a variety of health conditions without side effects. Let’s dive in and explore what they are in more detail….
Also known as ‘golden root’ in traditional Chinese medicine, rhodiola rosea (RR) also grows in the U.S. But you won’t find it growing in the wild in sunny, warm Miami or pleasant San Diego.
In the U.S., it grows in the Rocky Mountains. The same compounds that help it thrive in high altitude and rough weather also help people adapt to stressful situations.
Research studies seem to agree. Most plants haven’t had any clinical trials (on people). But that’s not true of rhodiola supplements.
For instance, a study showed that rhodiola rosea extract can relieve mild to moderate depression.
And that’s just one of over 800 entries on Pubmed. Research on RR dates back well before the Soviet era. In fact, northern European scientific publications discussed RR as far back as the 18th century.
Here’s what else people use it for:
- Sharpened mental acuity (focus, concentration, memory)
- Athletic stamina
- Mild bipolar disorder (and other mood disorders)
- Sexual function
- Weight Loss
Rhodiola for Anxiety
Can this adaptogen really help the 40 million or so adults in the U.S. with anxiety disorders? That’s over 18% of the population.
The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. The bad news is that less than 37% of those suffering from it receive treatment.
Could rhodiola rosea root be the answer for anxiety?
More research is needed to confirm this. But small studies give reason to be optimistic. The same is true for natural beta blockers and floatation therapy.
Take this observational study performed in a primary care facility for instance. It suggests rhodiola (combined with saffron) improves depression and anxiety symptoms.
How does rhodiola rosea work?
Like other adaptogenic herbs, RR can elicit both a stimulative and sedative effect. It stimulates certain hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. This leads to a better mood.
But it also inhibits a certain enzyme that’s been linked to depression.
RR also balances the glands that are responsible for creating and releasing stress hormones. The specific glands are the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenals. These three glands are called the “HPA axis.”
Think of your HPA axis as your stress-management system. If you’re feeling burned out from working too much or studying, you need something for your HPA axis. Ashwagandha and rhodiola are two of the best herbs for giving your HPA some TLC.
One more impressive way RR works: it increases endorphin activity. Endorphins are hormones. The more active endorphins are in your body, the less stress symptoms you’ll have.
And here’s another rhodiola benefit: endorphins also block pain signals.
Rhodiola for Weight Loss
Can RR really prevent weight gain? The answer is yes, and it has to do with how the herb helps the body respond to stress. You see, when you’re constantly in fight or flight (high-stress) mode, your digestion slows down.
It’s hard to burn fat if your digestion is sluggish.
Of course, this is a simple explanation of why RR can help you lose weight. But suffice to say, there is research showing that rhodiola extract helps burn stored body fat (in rats).
A compound in RR called rosavin stimulates a hormone that helps break down belly fat. The herb also increases metabolism and cellular energy. Although studies are lacking, it might even help curb hunger.
If you take RR extract and exercise, the weight loss effects might be greater. That’s because RR increases your red blood cells. What does this have to do with weight loss? The more red blood cells you have, the more oxygen you’ll have to work out.
With more stamina, you’ll be able to burn more calories.
For mild to moderate depression, a dosage of 340-680 mg per day was used in a study. Over a six-week period, the group taking RR extract experienced a significant improvement with no serious side effects.
But according to WebMD’s medical advice, “At this time there is not “enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for rhodiola.”
Gaia Herbs is a popular herbal supplement brand. The company’s RR extract dose is 120 mg. Gaia sources the herb from its native source, Siberian alpine forests.
Consumer Lab is a subscription-based independent organization that tests the purity and quality of supplements. According to ConsumerLab.com, RR extract varies greatly.
Rhodiola rosea dosage can be as high as 680 mg per day. The dose may be divided into two doses per day.
Rhodiola Rosea Extract: What To Look For When Buying
ConsumerLab suggests choosing a product with at least 3% rosavins. This is the active compound that’s responsible for much of the therapeutic benefits. The researchers at Consumer Lab also state that the product should ideally also contain 1% salidrosides (another compound in RR).
But as respected as Gaia is, ConsumerLab’s two top RR extract picks (as of March, 2016) were from Nature’s Way and Solaray.
However, Gaia was one of 10 other brands approved by ConsumerLab. Two brands failed ConsumerLab’s testing: HerbPharm and Nature’s Plus. Both these brands overstated the amount of active compounds.
Are There Rhodiola Side Effects?
Just like any other drug or natural ingredient, yes, side effects can occur.
It may lower blood pressure. So if you’re on blood pressure medication, check with your doctor before taking it.
Likewise, if you’re taking prescription drugs for depression, anxiety or any other condition, RR extract can interfere with the medication.
RR may lower blood sugar. So you may want to avoid it if you have hypoglycemia.
Mild side effects that have been reported are dry mouth, dizziness, nausea and headache.
If you have trouble falling asleep, take it early in the day. One rhodiola benefit for some people is improved sleep quality. But like all adaptogens, it may increase your energy levels.
That being said, adaptogens have a unique ability to have the dual action of increasing energy and calming the nerves.
But let’s see a few anecdotal examples of its effectiveness….
On WebMD there are as of this writing 96 reviews.
For fatigue, there are 23 reviews. Based on its effectiveness for fighting fatigue, the average score is just about 3 and ¼ stars (out of 5).
As for anxiety, the score is higher: 4.32 average stars for 22 reviews. For the 18 people who used it for depression and reviewed it: 4.5 stars.
Finally, 3.8 stars was the average score for 10 reviewers who judged it on its effectiveness for general health and wellness.
Rhodiola Benefits: Conclusion
If you’re looking for proof from large-scale clinical trials, RR extract still has a long way to go.
However, based on the pioneering research by Soviet scientists, it seems like it might help for those undergoing stressful conditions.
The Soviet Union used adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola to get a competitive edge over capitalist countries like the U.S. That’s why Soviet soldiers, night-shift factory workers, truck drivers, and Olympic athletes used it.
This herb can withstand, nay, thrive during the long, brutal Soviet winter. Thus, perhaps it can help your body adapt to whatever stress is ailing you.
Looking for more ways to deal with fatigue, depression, anxiety, and stress? You may want to check out the following for additional information on natural remedies that can help.
- Floatation therapy benefits for anxiety and more
- Best essential oils for relaxation
- Meditation benefits and how to get started
- Using GABA for anxiety
- Best essential oils for energy
- Using St. John’s Wort for depression
Have you had success using natural based treatment for any of these issues? Let us know how it worked out by leaving a comment.