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Nature furnishes our body with the elements it demands, appropriately adapting our form to the environment surrounding us. The connection between us and the world deserves deeper consideration than getting the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Blossoming from the ground up are health benefiting herbs, such as Rhodiola rosea, that provide our bodies with that extra something.
What is rhodiola?
Rhodiola grows in the cold, mountainous, high altitude regions of Europe, Asia, and the Arctic. This perennial plant typically lives two to three years, surviving extreme weather and climate conditions. The herb blossoms brightly, most often sunny yellow, shedding light to the cold, high-altitude regions it thrives in.
Rhodiola is also commonly known as: rose root, golden root, artic root, and king’s crown, to name a few. It has been used as a traditional medicine for ages. Interestly enough, one of its historic purposes was resistance to high-altitude sickness and to fight against fatigue, depression, and anxiety. It makes sense that humans would absorb these necessary properties to fight the deep dark winters of those regions.
Adaptogenic herbs date back to World War II when the idea that a pill could improve mental and physical performance was introduced. They are historically known for their ability to fight fatigue, battle depression, and boost our brain functioning. In the period of 1950-60 the idea that using herbs as medicine to help with stress in intense environments was developed and by toxicologist Lazarev. Rhodiola rosea has been classified as an adaptogen by Russion researchers due to its observed ability to increase our body’s resistance to a variety of stressors.
Adaptogens are like personal trainers. Just like we’d strengthen our muscles and improve our cardio in preparation for a competition, adaptogens (like Rhodiola rosea) help us prepare for stressful situations. They jump start and support the stress response process.
Scientifically put by naturopath Gregory Kelly, ND in Alternative Medicine Review, “When a stressful situation occurs, consuming adaptogens generates a degree of generalized adaptation (or nonspecific resistance) that allows our physiology to handle the stressful situation in a more resourceful manner.”
It’s important to note that the effects of adaptogens may differ from person to person and according to what circumstances are thrown our way. The most convincing evidence correlates adaptogens to their cognitive function, mental performance in fatigue, and effectiveness in depression.
8 Powerful Rhodiola rosea benefits
The time we’ve all been waiting for...the great eight benefits of this gorgeous golden root. Take note that a majority of the research is unavailable for review but there is still bountiful literature available to support Rhodiola’s adaptogenic properties. Rhodiola has also been intensively examined in Russia and Scandinavia for over 35 years.
Peaks physical performance
Feel like a young buck. Rhodiola may peak physical performance. In a systematic review of randomized clinical trials, Rhodiola displayed promising beneficial effects on physical exercise and mental functioning.
This wonder herb promotes fatty acid utilization and can improve resistance to physical stress. Rhodiola is also a known antioxidant, which helps quell inflammation, potentially shortening recovery time. In a four week study conducted on 14 physically fit males, Rhodiola supplementation resulted in significantly lower lactate (the stuff that makes you sore) and creatine kinase (an enzyme released with muscle damage - a natural result of exercise).
Rhodiola has the potential to decrease perceived exertion, making you feel more like superman during your workouts. In one study, participants completed mood measurements before and after exercise. Bring on that extra bit to push past a long or hard workout.
Rhodiola is a nature-made substance that helps us through tough times. It’s the main adaptogen approved by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products and has been shown to influence the release of stress hormones in animal-based studies. In another small scale study of just over 100 participants taking 200mg Rhodiola twice a day for four weeks, improvements were reported as quick as just three days after the start of treatment.
Rhodiola takes the golden crown because current medications used to treat stress, tend to carry not so fun side effects. This king of adaptogens can help you reclaim the throne over overwhelming times, arming you to cope better. Just like waving and swaying with your yoga tree pose, Rhodiola gets you ready to flow around what life throws at you.
Stress is one of the sneakiest suppliers of the dangerous type of weight gain. When we live life in a panic, stress hormone cortisol is elevated and affects every system in our body, including thyroid and adrenal glands.
Now cortisol isn’t all bad. It serves a good purpose, helping us wake up in the morning and get ready to “fight or flight” and run the heck away from a dangerous situation. The problem is when it stays high for a long time. This leads to higher blood sugar and insulin, making our bodies hold on to fat while breaking down lean muscle tissue. Not so fun.
Rosavin, one of Rhodiola rosea’s main components has been shown to help normalize cortisol levels. Rosavin works to support lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fats. Some animal studies have also discovered that Rhodiola may reduce belly fat. The best way to lose weight is with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, but Rhodiola may give that extra boost you need.
Sharpens the mind
Rhodiola can increase mental performance, particularly during brain draining times. After addressing sleep quality, nutrition, and stress management, an herb like this worldly wonder can propel mental movement.
Medical professionals work long and strenuous hours and we’re grateful for all that they do. A group of 56 healthy physicians participated in a study to test their fatigue and mental response while taking Rhodiola. Perception, cognition, and cerebral functions were tested. Within the first two weeks, a statistically significant improvement was observed with no side effects noted.
That post freak out fatigue that comes on after a tough time can cause feelings of physical and mental dragging. Rhodiola’s adaptogenic nature makes it a popular supplement for fighting fatigue and symptoms associated with stress. In a randomised, double-blind study on subjects with stress-related fatigue, repeated administration of Rhodiola provided more energy, improving ability to concentrate and decreasing the stress hormone, cortisol.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue. The fatigue can get worse with physical or mental activity but unfortunately does not improve with rest. The cause is unknown, but Rhodiola has shown some promising results. Over 100 subjects with chronic fatigue symptoms took 200mg twice a day for eight weeks. The greatest change was seen after just one week of treatment; chronic fatigue suffers noticed an increase of vitality.
We could all use a friend sometimes. Conditions like anxiety and depression are influenced by chemical (neurotransmitters) imbalances in our brain. Rhodiola recommenders suggest that it helps balance these neurotransmitters. It’s also thought to have an impact on endorphins, tryptophan, and serotonin in the brain.
One of the most active components of Rhodiola, rosiridin (see more details below), presented a blockage of over 80% on MAO-A (monoamine oxidase A). This enzyme helps metabolize serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Rhodiola rosea has demonstrated anti-depressant effects by inhibiting MAO-A.
Acute mountain sickness is a reaction to high altitude caused by low oxygen and pressure. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, numbness, and dizziness. Traditionally, Rhodiola was used to help battle this sickness; conveniently the plant grows in mountainous regions.
The best way to treat mountain sickness is to take a gradual ascent, but for people like mountain climbers.
Research has not yet shown that Rhodiola can benefit mountain sickness. In one study of 100 participants mountaineering in the Himalayan areas and Tibet, there were no demographic differences between individuals taking the herb versus a placebo. Since it doesn’t cause many negative symptoms, it may be worth a try even for the placebo effect.
Keep that heart a tickin’. High blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease over time. Rhodiola increases beta-endorphin which can lower blood pressure.
High blood sugar and diabetes also drastically increase risk for cardiovascular disease. Over time, high levels of sugar in our blood can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart function. The longer diabetes is uncontrolled, the higher the risk of developing heart disease. Positive results have been seen in animal studies: Rhodiola-water extract improved blood sugar regulation in rats.
Rhodiola side effects
All hail this herbaceous herb. There’s not much to say about the side effects of Rhodiola since the symptoms seem to be mild. If you experience any of these not so pleasant reactions, stop taking the herb and consult a physician:
- Dry mouth: when salivary glands don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet.
- Dizziness: feeling faint, weak, unsteady, or lightheaded.
- Jittery: nervous or unable to relax or sit still.
- Sleep problems: difficulty falling or staying asleep.
To prevent sleep from being interrupted, take appropriate doses and aim to have them earlier in the day instead of right before bedtime. Serve up some Rhodiola with breakfast and lunch.
The supplement industry is not regulated so be wary of what you’re putting in your body. When looking for Rhodiola, aim for the root extract and aim for 3% total rosavins, and 1% salidrosides. You can find this in a capsule, tablet, or tincture form.
Search for these Rhodiola supplement descriptions:
- Standardized extract SHR-5 of roots of Rhodiola Rosea
- Active compounds
- Salidroside (1%): the more powerful and active component, notable for its adaptogenic properties.
- Rosavins (3%): main active phytochemical, best combined with salidroside.
Oh those post hard days’ work feelings of wanting to plop down on the couch and turn on Netflix. Decreased productivity, poor memory, irritability, headaches, insomnia, and poor appetite may be alleviated by taking Rhodiola. With your physician or naturopath’s ok, its recommended to take Rhodiola in the morning, or in the morning and the afternoon. If you’re expecting some intense mental work, start taking it at least a few days prior. For instance, say you’re cramming for a presentation or meeting on Friday, start taking Rhodiola on Monday.
Take Rhodiola rosea:
- In the morning, or the morning and afternoon.
- A few days prior to a stressful time.
- Duration of 2-3 weeks, or during the entire period of tension.
- 400 mg up to 660 mg per day (half dose taken twice per day).
The righteous and herbaceous Rhodiola rosea has a long history of being utilized to increase mental well-being, concentration, and physical and mental stamina. Large studies have not yet been conducted, but considering the low risk of side effects and a long history of helping us humans, you may want to give it a well-deserved try.