Rhodiola rosea is commonly referred to as the golden root and is a plant that grows in cold and mountainous regions around the world. It was first mentioned in medical literature around 2,000 years ago by the physician and botanist Dioscorides.
Rhodiola is part of a category of plants, herbs and other compounds called Adaptogens. These are some of the most helpful compounds for modern times when it comes to dealing with stress, depression and chronic fatigue.
Rhodiola is referenced in scientific literature for the following(1):
- Increases life span
As we discussed with Dr. Mark Hyman on the podcast, stress causes or worsens 95% of all illness. In the age of productivity and overstimulation, we benefit most from a multi-dimensional approach to stress and stress management.
Meditation, laughter, yoga and exercise can all be great tools, but may not give the oomph needed to support someone through a time of stress. Rhodiola rosea has a gentle effect when it comes to stress relief and has both immediate and long-term benefits.
A study used 1375 subjects with "life-stress symptoms" and had them take 200mg of Rhodiola rosea extract twice per day. A total of 400mg per day.
After only 3 days of treatment, the group showed a decrease in all 7 assessments including perceived stress and fatigue! The results continued to take effect for the duration of the 4 week study. (2)
Natural Depression Relief
Pharmaceutical intervention with anti-depression medication has led to more suicides and other harmful side effects than the supposed benefits. As someone who lost a school acquaintance due to suicide shortly after jumping on anti-depression medication, it's a subject that I take very seriously.
I've been looking for the magic solution to naturally heal depression including Seasonal Affective Disorder during the cold and dreary winter months and have found that Rhodiola combined with Light Therapy and these strategies can be useful for maintaining sanity.
What if there were a natural alternative that had a great track record and didn't have a long list of harmful side effects beneath the label? Rhodiola fits the bill for this tall order and can be extremely helpful for mild to moderate cases of depression.
A 6-week clinical trial took 89 depressed patients and divided them into 3 groups:
- Group A received 340mg Rhodiola per day
- Group B received 680mg of Rhodiola per day
- Group C received a two placebo capsules per day
After 42 days, the groups were reassessed.
Rhodiola supplementation groups A and B showed lower overall depression, insomnia, emotional instability and somatization (the production of health symptoms with no cause). Self-esteem wasn't changed. (3)
Exercise Performance Booster
Crossfit has gained extreme popularity in the last decade and has pushed the boundaries of the human body. As someone who has personally consulted with burnout victims due to Crossfit, it's hard for me to recommend it for most people. With high-stress levels from financial and dietary sources, Crossfit can be the last straw that breaks the nervous system of a once "tough guy" or gal.
But, if you insist on having a high-intensity exercise practice or enjoy pushing yourself to the limit in marathons, spartan races and others like my friend Ben Greenfield, then I encourage you to use some herbal support.
Whether you're trying to shave seconds off your timed session or you're simply trying to gain the safe advantage over your competitors, Rhodiola has documented use for this exact goal.
A study took 18 subjects and put them on a 6-mile bicycle time trial and found the following in the Rhodiola group: (2)
- Decreased heart rate
- Faster time trial completion
- Less perceived exertion
Rhodiola is the perfect supplemental support for any form of moderate to intense exercise. From hiking trips to intense competitive events, the adaptogenic effect is profound. (4)
What Type of Rhodiola is Best?
The main thing you'll need to understand is that not all Rhodiola rosea is created equally. While I prefer to use organic herbs whenever possible, there are currently no organic Rhodiola capsules for sale.
Your main priorities when seeking a Rhodiola supplement:
- Extracted to contain 3% Rosavins (the compound responsible for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effect)
- Extracted to contain 1% Salidroside (the compound responsible for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effect that may be more effective than Rosavins!)
- A 1 capsule dose of 500mg (just to ensure a moderate but effective amount)
I personally use this particular brand in my personal and health practice.
This is one of my favorite plants of all time. I hope you are as excited about the world of Adaptogens as I am. There is more information that will be available on the research and clinical use of Adaptogens to come on this blog.
Further Reading: Dr. Curran's article on Rhodiola
(1) Panossian, A., G. Wikman, and J. Sarris. "Rosenroot (Rhodiola Rosea): Traditional Use, Chemical Composition, Pharmacology and Clinical Efficacy." Phytomedicine: 481-93.
(3) Edwards, D., A. Heufelder, and A. Zimmermann. "Therapeutic Effects and Safety of Rhodiola Rosea Extract WS® 1375 in Subjects with Life-stress Symptoms - Results of an Open-label Study." Phytotherapy Research
(3)V. Darbinyan, G. Aslanyan, E. Amroyan, E. Gabrielyan, C. Malmström, and A. Panossian "Clinical Trial of Rhodiola Rosea L. Extract SHR-5 in the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Depression." Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 61, no. 5, 343-48.
(4) Noreen, Eric E., James G. Buckley, Stephanie L. Lewis, Josef Brandauer, and Kristin J. Stuempfle. "The Effects of an Acute Dose of Rhodiola Rosea on Endurance Exercise Performance." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 839-47.