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Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is an herb found in Siberia that is, in many ways, shrouded in mystery. It’s a supplement that, unlike fish oil or St. John’s wort doesn't have much in the way of popular culture recognition for its benefits. While even people who don’t often explore the benefits of supplements are familiar with some common names, rhodiola rosea tends to slip under the radar, and it’s a real shame that it does. So, just what is rhodiola rosea? What is it used for? What’s its history? And where can you get it?

Find the answers to your pressing questions about this new wonder-supplement below.

The Basics of the Rhodiola Rosea Supplement

The term “rhodiola rosea” is the scientific name for the herb. It’s usually called “arctic root” or “golden root,” instead. It’s a pretty, green plant with yellow star burst flowers when it’s blooming. It looks very much like the average succulent and, to the untrained eye can be hard to differentiate between. The spikey, almost cabbage-like structure of the plant and the dark green leaves with reddened tips can sometimes cause this herb to be mistaken as it shares those traits with many similar plants. However, the main difference between a succulent and golden root is the fact that they grow in mountainous, colder areas rather than arid deserts like most succulents do.

The plant is actually packed full of nutrients within the roots. It contains around 140 different active ingredients, the two most prevalent being salidroside and rosavin. This was discovered many years ago, as it’s considered to be a staple of old, Russian medicine. Thanks to the plant’s prevalence in the Siberian mountains and Northern Europe, it’s a popular fixture of Russian medicinal techniques, which is where it’s gained popularity and likely, why it is not well known in most Western countries. It’s been used for many years for a variety of ailments, and now that it has been put to the test by scientists across the globe, it’s gaining recognition as a high-quality supplement.

What Is Rhodiola Rosea Used To Treat?

Decrease Stress

Combat Fatigue

Fight Depression

Improve Cognitive Function

Improve Cognitive Function

Improves Mental Health

Decreases Stress

One of the more common uses for golden root supplements is trouble with stress. Specifically, it’s been called an “adaptogen,” which means that it helps the human body cope with stress chemicals better than it does naturally. Studies have been conducted several times in the last couple of years that have supported this claim. For example, there was a study that explored the effects of a 400mg dose once per day for four days a week. They reported significant improvements in regard to the various negative symptoms of stress on the 101 person sample of the study. Specifically, they found that fatigue and anxiety were addressed within three days of beginning the regimen, with steady improvements throughout the life of the study.

In a different study focused on the effects of the supplement on symptoms of burnout, it increased the body’s resistance to stress chemicals and found that many saw a decrease in symptoms of depression that are often associated with burnout related stress. This specific study charted 118 people’s experience with rhodiola rosea supplements, specifically a daily, 400mg dose that was carried out over the course of the 12-week study. This study focused on specific groups of people who were more likely to face symptoms of burnout, for example, many had stress burdens related to caring for handicapped or mentally-ill family members at home. Still, within the week, the people in the study reported a decrease in irritability, concentration issues, feelings of loss of control in your life, exhaustion, anxiety, and even somatic symptoms (physical manifestations of stress and depression.)

These studies provide only a small glimpse of how effective rhodiola rosea can be in decreasing the symptoms of stress in the average person. More come out every year that support the effectiveness of the supplement.

Combats Fatigue

Fatigue is an ever-present thing for some folks. It’s a symptom of a variety of different ailments, chief among them being stress. And it’s hard to combat, too. A steady stream of caffeine in your system usually isn't enough to keep the fatigue at bay, but rhodiola rosea could prove to be a solution to that issue. In a study that lasted around four weeks, 60 people with fatigue symptoms were administered a supplement of golden root to measure the effects of the herb on their symptoms of fatigue. A 576mg dosage and placebo pill were used to measure the effects and those who were not placed on the placebo found increases in their attention span and a marked decrease in feelings of fatigue.

These effects are often boiled down to the adaptogenic nature of the herb itself. Fatigue is often a symptom of the human body dealing with too much cortisol or one of the other stress hormones that might be a constant part of your day-to-day life. Since the body goes through the stress process in three steps, alarm, resistance and then exhaustion, fatigue goes hand-in-hand with stress. Since adaptogens act on the body, specifically your pituitary gland and other hormone releasing glands, they allow for the body to lengthen the resistance phase of the stress process, thus limiting the exhaustion phase. This manages to keep fatigue and other stress hormone side effects under control more effectively for a longer period of time.

Fights Depression

Depression is caused by the neurotransmitters in your brain becoming unbalanced, which is why antidepressants contain chemicals that act to re-balance those neurotransmitters. However, golden root might have neurotransmitter balancing effects without the side effects that come with the average antidepressant.

When these effects were tested in a clinical trial, users of rhodiola rosea, rather than placebo pills, found marked improvements in their common feelings of depression, insomnia, and their emotional stability. The placebo group that acted as a control, experienced no improvements in any of these symptom categories. However, the most convincing study that defends the effects of the golden root herb has to be the study where they compared the effects of golden root to the common antidepressant “Zoloft.” While Zoloft found a greater effect in reducing depression symptoms, rhodiola was recorded to have caused fewer side effects and was far better tolerated by most of the test subjects. This renders it a perfect supplement to start combating depressive moods before they get severe and need prescriptions to alleviate the symptoms permanently.

Improves Cognitive Function

If the popularity of the fish oil and omega-3 supplement tells us anything, it’s that people value a big, strong brain with higher cognitive function abilities. Because it aids in the control of stress side effects, it’s been found to improve cognitive function especially when people are under a lot of stress. Specifically, studies have found that rhodiola rosea’s effects on stress and how the body responds to stress hormones help to ensure a good night’s sleep by backing your brain up for the whole day.

One specific study explored this effect by testing physicians with night shifts specifically. Half were assigned a 70mg daily dose of golden root supplement and the other half were assigned a placebo. These physicians found that the rhodiola increased their cognitive performance in their work by around 20% more than those who were on the placebo. This, in turn, resulted in improved sleep patterns.

Another study that focused specifically on students found better sleep patterns, reduced mental fatigue and, most impressively, an 8% increase in performance on exam scores, too.

It’s simple: Your brain performs better when it’s not stressed, sleep-deprived, or experiencing emotional exhaustion.

Increases Performance During Exercise

One of the admittedly more unorthodox effects of the rhodiola rosea herb is the increase in physical performance, especially during exercise. Many like to point to a study that found that college-aged women were capable of running faster while taking the herb supplement. However, that is only one of many that have found improvements in physical as well as mental performance while enjoying the golden root herb’s benefits. While there have been studies that explored the quick effects of the herb on physical performance, endurance exercise poses a more interesting example.

Endurance was tested through a virtual cycling course as a time-trial race for six miles. Just before the race, the athletes were given 1.4mg per pound of body weight of the golden root herb. The test group given this rhodiola finished the race much quicker than those who had not been given the supplement. The study concluded that in this particular instance, the herb had acted to increase their abilities by decreasing how their body sensed its own exertion levels. Because your body measures its level of exertion through the amount of stress hormones released during the process, the golden root herb was able to toggle and control the way your body interacted with the stress hormone.

While the herb will likely not show any improvement in actual muscle strength or power, it should be able to increase endurance and thus improve those parts of physical performance over time.

Improves Mental Health

While we’ve covered some of the main benefits of general mental health that rhodiola rosea could provide, we haven’t explored more serious mental health issues at all. It’s been proven to be able to improve mental fitness on most accounts. While stress and mild to moderate depression are in many ways facts of life, issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder and others are not. You’ll need a diagnosis to start treating those ailments, which usually means spending quite a bit of time under the observation of a psychologist and requiring a selection of prescriptions. While rhodiola rosea cannot act as a substitute for those prescriptions, it may be able to help people deal with their ailment on a day-to-day basis while remaining a normal, functioning member of society.

Mental Health America explores the studies and findings of several experts in the mental health field, and they explore the opportunities for using rhodiola rosea in treatment plans with those who have more serious mental illness diagnoses.

Bipolar Disorder

Experts have found that moderate doses of rhodiola rosea for those who have bipolar disorder can prove beneficial. This is especially true for those who are already taking mood stabilizers. Their experts found that people who have bipolar disorder and find that their mood swings tend to produce depressive responses will find rhodiola rosea most effective in mood regulation. However, the proper dosage would have to be determined by a physician who is watching closely for any “cycling bipolar” symptoms.


Since rhodiola rosea is already known for improving mental acuity and alertness, it often serves folks with ADHD very well. It can increase alertness, accuracy, and attention spans and is therefore often used to help supplement ADHD symptoms, especially since many of the drugs used to treat this ailment come with a wide variety of side effects.

Alleviate Psychotropic Medication Side Effects

Some mental illnesses require the use of psychotropic medication which comes with a wide variety of side effects that can greatly hinder the enjoyment of the person’s life and their day-to-day activities. However, the experts cited by Mental Health America believe that rhodiola rosea could be used to reduce the side effects of these drugs, such as the ones used to treat schizophrenia.


Because anxiety is often caused by the body reacting poorly to stress hormones and potentially releasing them too readily, the stress management benefits of rhodiola rosea could be used to alleviate and sometimes control symptoms of anxiety, especially in mild cases. This is very promising, as many drugs that are used for anxiety have serious side effects that could be avoided through the proper dosage of a supplement instead of a prescription drug.

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