Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola powder
Rhodiola rosea is an herb historically used to treat fatigue and other health issues. Some studies show Rhodiola rosea...

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Rhodiola rosea, also known as “Arctic root,” “golden root,” “roseroot,” and “king’s crown,” is a flowering herb that grows in the arctic and in cold mountainous regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Rhodiola rosea is from the Crassulaceae family of plants and, where it is native, it often grows as a groundcover. The leaves and shoots can be eaten and an extract can be made from the roots. Historically, people living in regions with Rhodiola rosea have used the herb for purposes ranging from treating fatigue and headache to improving physical endurance and work performance. In fact, Rhodiola rosea is often considered an “adaptogen,” a family of herbs believed to help regulate physical, mental, and emotional stresses in the body (5). It contains a number of chemical compounds, two groups of which are suspected to confer the benefits seen with supplementation: the rosavins and the salidrosides.

Rhodiola rosea’s purported health benefits cover a range of mental health-related conditions, including cognition and fatigue. It is thought that Rhodiola rosea works by protecting cells from damage. It does this by improving blood flow, acting as an antioxidant, acting as an anti-inflammatory, and protecting against a process called apoptosis, which is programmed cell death (4).

While numerous studies have looked into the effects of Rhodiola rosea, the results are limited. This means it is difficult to determine precisely how effective supplementation with Rhodiola rosea can be. This has led one systematic review to suggest that more research should be done to fully uncover the benefits of Rhodiola rosea (2).

Studies focusing on claims made about the effects of Rhodiola rosea include the following:

  • Fatigue: In one study, participants with fatigue syndrome took 576 mg per day of Rhodiola rosea extract. After four weeks, the researchers concluded that Rhodiola rosea had anti-fatigue effects and it also increased mental performance, improved the ability to concentrate, and decreased cortisol response (6).

  • Learning and memory: In a review of 36 studies done on animals, Rhodiola rosea had a positive effect on learning and memory function (4).

  • Physical performance: A systematic review of articles that evaluated Rhodiola rosea’s effects on physical and mental fatigue found mixed results. While some studies showed Rhodiola rosea to be beneficial, the authors of the review warned that the results may be biased (3).

Nutritional supplements, like Rhodiola rosea, are not reviewed by the FDA for safety and effectiveness. The effective daily dose can therefore only be estimated based on what has been tested in studies. Dosages used in studies examining Rhodiola rosea’s efficacy against fatigue and stress range from 60–680 mg per day (2).

Rhodiola rosea is a plant whose leaves and shoots can be eaten. However, Rhodiola rosea is more commonly available as a root extract, which can be made available in capsule or tablet form.

Possible side effects of Rhodiola rosea include dizziness and dry mouth (5). In studies, Rhodiola rosea is generally well tolerated without clinically significant adverse effects being reported (2).