The fragrant Rhodiola rosea root, also known as rose root, has been used throughout history in Iceland, Sweden, France, Russia, and Greece. Rhodiola rosea started to appear in scientific literature as early as 1725. Popular with the Vikings to enhance mental and physical endurance, this revered adaptogen was included in the first Swedish Pharmacopeia. In addition, the respected Greek physician Dioscorides discussed the virtues of Rhodiola rosea root in his De Materia Medica discourse in the first century A.D. Linnaeus also wrote about Rhodiola medicinal properties in 1749 in his Material Media.
What is Rhodiola Used for?
Our Siberian Rhodiola rosea supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and encourages a healthy response to physical, emotional and mental stress by supporting cortisol levels and other stress-related hormones. If used regularly, Rhodiola rosea functions to support the body’s natural resistance and adaptation to stressful influences.* Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated a positive effect of Rhodiola root extract on a healthy mood.
What’s to know about rhodiola rosea?
Rhodiola rosea is a flowering herb that grows in cold, high-altitude regions of Europe and Asia. Other names for it include arctic root, golden root, king’s crown, and rose root.
Rhodiola rosea has been used in traditional medicine for many years, particularly in Russia, Scandinavia, and other cold, mountainous areas. Some people believe the herb can treat anxiety, depression, fatigue, anemia, and headaches.
Numerous studies have been conducted on the plant. While some results appear promising, many of the studies have been small, biased, or flawed. As such, experts say more research needs to be done to determine how Rhodiola rosea is effective, and whether it should be included in treatment plans.
Meanwhile, Rhodiola rosea has a low risk of side effects and appears to offer some benefits for many of these conditions. Therefore, it may be a natural option that is worth trying for its supposed uses.
Benefits and evidence
The evidence for Rhodiola rosea health claims varies. The following are some of its popular uses and what research says about each one. The health benefits of this herbal root are probably linked to anti-inflammatory properties it may have.
Rhodiola rosea is a flowering herb that has been used in traditional medicine for many years.
One of the best-known claims about Rhodiola rosea is its power as a substance that helps the body adapt to stress, otherwise known as an adaptogen.
Its specific abilities and qualities, however, have not yet been scientifically proven with enough well-designed studies.
A report published in Alternative Medicine Review found that Rhodiola rosea shows promise as an adaptogen. Based on evidence from several small studies, the author states that the plant’s extracts provide benefits for mental health and heart function.
Another 2005 article describes Rhodiola rosea as “a versatile adaptogen,” stating that the herb can increase resistance to stress. In particular, the authors state that it holds promise as a possible treatment for reducing stress hormone levels and stress-induced heart problems.
Physical and mental performance
Some people take Rhodiola rosea to enhance physical performance before exercise or as a way to improve concentration and thinking. There are also claims that it helps reduce physical and mental fatigue.
A number of studies touch on these claims. They include the following:
- A review that states Rhodiola rosea may hold promise as an aid for enhanced physical and mental performance. The authors conclude that more research on the plant is needed to further examine and prove its effects.
- A study in 2009 found that women who took a high dose of Rhodiola rosea were able to run faster than those who got a placebo. The study examined 15 college-age women.
- Another study suggests that taking a standardized extract of Rhodiola rosea may improve concentration and reduce fatigue. The research looked at 60 men and women, who took an extract called SHR-5. The dosage given for these effects was 576 milligrams (mg) per day.
Despite these results, a large 2012 review published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at 206 studies on Rhodiola rosea and fatigue but found only 11 were suitable to include.
Five of these trials determined that Rhodiola rosea helped with symptoms of physical and mental fatigue. But, the reviewers state, all of the studies had a high risk of bias or had reporting flaws with an unknown bias.
The reviewers conclude that research on Rhodiola rosea is “contradictory and inconclusive.” They recommend a non-biased, valid trial of the herb before it is put forward as a treatment for fatigue.
Depression and anxiety
One study found evidence to suggest that Rhodiola rosea may reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Ten people were included in this study, and they took 340 mg of Rhodiola rosea extract for 10 weeks.
Another study in Phytomedicine found that Rhodiola rosea reduced symptoms of depression, but its effects were mild. The herb did not reduce symptoms as effectively as sertraline, a prescription antidepressant, although it had fewer and milder side effects.
The authors of this 2015 study concluded that, as it may be better tolerated by some people and did provide benefit, Rhodiola rosea may be suitable as a treatment for mild to moderate depression. The study included 57 people who took the herb for 12 weeks.
Stress-induced eating disorders
An active ingredient in Rhodiola rosea known as salidroside, was studied for its effects on binge eating. This study, published in Physiology & Behavior, was done using rats. It found that a dry extract of Rhodiola rosea that included 3.12 percent salidroside did help reduce or eliminate binge eating in the animals.
The rats that took Rhodiola rosea also had lower blood levels of a stress hormone that may play a role in binge eating.
Another study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, similarly conducted on rats, determined that Rhodiola rosea may reduce stress-induced anorexia. The authors say their findings provide evidence to support claims that the herb has anti-stress properties.
7 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola is an herb that grows in the cold, mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.
Its roots are considered adaptogens, meaning they help your body adapt to stress when consumed.
Rhodiola is also known as arctic root or golden root, and its scientific name is Rhodiola rosea.
Its root contains more than 140 active ingredients, the two most potent of which are rosavin and salidroside.
People in Russia and Scandinavian countries have used rhodiola to treat anxiety, fatigue and depression for centuries.
Today, it’s widely used as a dietary supplement for its many health benefits.
1. Can Decrease Stress
Rhodiola has long been known as an adaptogen, a natural substance that increases your body’s resistance to stress in non-specific ways.
Consuming adaptogens during stressful times is thought to help you handle stressful situations better (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
One study investigated the effects of rhodiola extract in 101 people with life- and work-related stress. Participants were given 400 mg per day for four weeks (3Trusted Source).
It found significant improvements in symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and anxiety, after just three days. These improvements continued throughout the study.
Rhodiola has also been shown to improve symptoms of burnout, which can occur with chronic stress.
What’s more, in a study in 118 people with stress-related burnout, it improved many associated measures, including stress and depression (4Trusted Source).
2. Can Fight Fatigue
Stress, anxiety and inadequate sleep are just a few factors that can contribute to fatigue, which can cause feelings of physical and mental tiredness.
Due to its adaptogenic properties, rhodiola is thought to help alleviate fatigue.
One four-week study in 60 people with stress-related fatigue looked at its effects on quality of life and symptoms of fatigue, depression and attention. Participants received either 576 mg of rhodiola or a placebo pill daily.
It found that rhodiola had a positive effect on fatigue levels and attention, compared to the placebo (5Trusted Source).
In a similar study, 100 people with chronic fatigue symptoms received 400 mg of rhodiola every day for eight weeks. They experienced significant improvements in stress symptoms, fatigue, quality of life, mood and concentration (6Trusted Source).
These improvements were observed after only one week of treatment and continued to improve through the final week of the study.
3. Could Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a common but serious illness that negatively affects how you feel and act (7Trusted Source).
It’s thought to occur when chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters become unbalanced. Health professionals commonly prescribe antidepressants to help correct these chemical imbalances (8Trusted Source).
Rhodiola rosea has also been suggested to have antidepressant properties by balancing the neurotransmitters in your brain (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
In one six-week study on the effectiveness of rhodiola on symptoms of depression, 89 people with mild or moderate depression were randomly assigned to receive either 340 mg or 680 mg of rhodiola or a placebo pill daily (12Trusted Source).
Both rhodiola groups experienced significant improvements in overall depression, insomnia and emotional stability, whereas the placebo group showed no improvements.
Interestingly, only the group receiving the larger dose showed improvements in self-esteem.
Another study compared the effects of rhodiola to the commonly prescribed antidepressant sertraline, which is sold under the name Zoloft. It randomly assigned 57 people diagnosed with depression to receive rhodiola, sertraline or a placebo pill for 12 weeks (13).
While rhodiola and strainer both reduced symptoms of depression, sertraline had a greater effect. However, rhodiola produced fewer side effects and was better tolerated.
4. Improves Brain Function
Exercise, proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep are sure ways to keep your brain running strong (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Some supplements may also help, including rhodiola.
One study tested its effects on mental fatigue in 56 physicians working night duty (17Trusted Source).
The physicians were randomly assigned to receive either 170 mg of rhodiola or a placebo pill per day for two weeks.
Rhodiola reduced mental fatigue and improved performance on work-related tasks by 20%, compared to the placebo.
Another study looked at the effects of rhodiola in military cadets performing night duties. The cadets consumed either 370 mg or 555 mg of rhodiola, or one of two placebos daily for five days (18Trusted Source).
Both doses were found to improve the cadets’ capacity for mental work, compared to the placebos.
In another study, students experienced significantly reduced mental fatigue, improved sleep patterns and increased motivation to study after taking rhodiola supplements for 20 days. Their exam scores were also 8% higher than those in the placebo group (19Trusted Source).
Two review articles also found evidence that rhodiola can ease mental fatigue, but they cautioned that the limited quantity and quality of the research did not allow for solid conclusions to be made (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
5. Can Improve Exercise Performance
Rhodiola also shows promise for improving exercise performance (22).
In one study, participants were given 200 mg of rhodiola or a placebo two hours before performing a cycling test (23Trusted Source).
Those given rhodiola were able to exercise for an average of 24 seconds longer than those given a placebo. While 24 seconds may seem small, the difference between first and second place in a race can be milliseconds (24).
Another study looked at its effects on endurance exercise performance (25Trusted Source).
Participants cycled for a six-mile simulated time-trial race. One hour before the race, participants were given rhodiola at a dose of 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg per kg) of body weight or a placebo pill.
Those given rhodiola finished the race significantly faster than the placebo group.
In these studies and others, rhodiola has been shown to improve exercise performance by decreasing perceived exertion, or how hard participants felt their bodies were working (26Trusted Source).
However, it’s unlikely to have any effect on muscle strength or power (23Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
6. May Help Control Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your body develops a reduced ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels (28Trusted Source).
People with diabetes commonly use insulin injections or medications that increase insulin sensitivity to normalize their blood sugar levels.
Interestingly, animal research suggests rhodiola may help improve diabetes control (29Trusted Source).
In fact, it has been shown to lower blood sugar in diabetic rats by increasing the number of glucose transporters in the blood. These transporters lower blood sugar by transporting glucose into the cells (30Trusted Source, 31).
These studies were performed in mice, so their results can’t be generalized to humans. However, they’re a compelling reason to investigate the effects of rhodiola on blood sugar in people.
If you have diabetes and wish to take rhodiola supplements, make sure to speak with your dietitian or doctor first.
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7. May Have Anticancer Properties
Salidroside, a potent component of rhodiola, has been investigated for its anticancer properties.
Test-tube studies have shown that it inhibits the growth of bladder, colon, breast and liver cancer cells (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
As a result, researchers have suggested that rhodiola may be useful in the treatment of many types of cancer.
However, until human studies become available, whether rhodiola can help treat cancer remains unknown.
Rhodiola is a plant. The root has a long history of use as medicine, especially in Arctic and Northern European regions.
Rhodiola is used as a so-called “adaptogen”, to help the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress, and for many other uses, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Some people use the term “arctic root” as the general name for this product; however, arctic root is actually a trademarked name for a specific commercial extract.
Rhodiola rosea extracts have been used as a dietary supplement in healthy populations, including athletes, to non-specifically enhance the natural resistance of the body to both physical and behavior stresses for fighting fatigue and depression. We summarize the information with respect to the new pharmacological activities of Rhodiola rosea extracts and its underlying molecular mechanisms in this review article.
What are Rhodiola’s side effects and drawbacks?
It’s likely to be safe in the short to mid term (months to a year) when taken in normal doses. As with pharmacologic ally potent herbs in general, it may have notable drug interactions.
One study has found that some commercial Rhodiola products may be diluted or otherwise adulterated.