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A Beginner's Guide to Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, adorned with captivating flowers, flourishes in the world's most daunting locales—from the high altitudes of mountain ranges to the icy stretches of the Eurasian savannahs. This herb's remarkable endurance is a testament to its potent vitality, a quality that has anchored it in the traditional medicinal practices of varied cultures and climates.

Civilizations from the warm Mediterranean soils to the cold currents of the Northern Sea have relied on Rhodiola Rosea for a vital energy boost.

First chronicled in the "De Materia Medica" by Greek physician Dioscorides in 77 AD, the use of Rhodiola Rosea extends through ancient Greco-Roman healing arts. This venerable text offers a window into the medical insights that survived into the so-called dark ages and beyond, reaching even the Scandinavian shores.

There, the formidable Norsemen ingested Rhodiola Rosea to steel themselves against the harshness of the North Sea and the challenges of exploration and combat.

Contemporary scientific endeavours have begun to disclose the mechanisms underlying Rhodiola Rosea's esteemed place in herbal medicine to boost cognition, reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being.

 

Contents

  • What is Rhodiola Rosea?
  • Rhodiola Rosea as a Nootropic
  • Scientific Evidence on Rhodiola Rosea's Benefits
  • Health Benefits Beyond Cognition
  • How to Use Rhodiola Rosea
  • Safety and Side Effects

 

Beginner's Guide to Rhodiola Rosea: Nootropic, Type, Uses and Risks

 

rhodiola rosea plant laying on top of round stone pebbles

 

What is Rhodiola Rosea?

Definition and Background

Rhodiola Rosea, commonly known as “roseroot,” “golden root,” or “arctic root,” is a perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Crassulaceae family.

This herb thrives in the dry, sandy soil of sea cliffs, mountain rocks, and high-altitude regions across the Arctic areas of Europe, Asia (mainly Siberia), and the eastern coastal regions of North America.

Valued for its medicinal properties, Rhodiola Rosea has been a staple in the traditional medicine systems of various European and Asian countries, including Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Iceland, Russia, and China​​.

Chemical Composition of Rhodiola Rosea

The chemical composition of Rhodiola Rosea is intricate and varied, contributing significantly to its therapeutic activities and health benefits.

Investigations into the chemical composition of Rhodiola Rosea rhizomes have revealed at least 140 isolated compounds, encompassing six distinct groups of phytochemicals: phenylpropanoids, phenylethanoid derivatives, flavonoids, monoterpene derivatives, triterpenes, and phenolic acids.

This rich phytochemical assortment underpins the adaptogen's broad spectrum of pharmacological effects.

Among these compounds, salidroside (rhodioloside), the trans-cinnamyl alcohol glycoside compounds (such as rhodiolin, rosin, rosavin, rosarin, and rosiridin), and tyrosol are deemed the most crucial for Rhodiola Rosea's therapeutic efficacy.

Rosavins, including rosavin, rosin, and rosarin, are particularly notable for being unique to Rhodiola Rosea, setting it apart from other species in the Rhodiola genus.

These compounds serve as key indicators of Rhodiola Rosea's genetic purity and are used to standardize extracts of the herb.

Typically, Rhodiola Rosea extracts are standardized to contain a minimum of 3.0% rosavins and 1.0% salidroside, reflecting their naturally occurring ratio of 3:1.

This specificity in chemical composition is not merely a hallmark of the plant's identity but also a reflection of its potential therapeutic applications.

The entire spectrum of chemical constituents found in Rhodiola Rosea rhizome extracts underscores the complexity of its health benefits, from stress management and cognitive enhancement to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

The precise identification of the phytochemicals responsible for these benefits, however, remains a subject of ongoing research​​.

Historical Context and Traditional Uses

Historically, Rhodiola Rosea has been utilized for its adaptogenic properties, enhancing physical and mental performance while combating stress.

Its use dates back centuries, with the plant being employed to increase physical endurance, work productivity, longevity, and resistance to high-altitude sickness.

Moreover, it has been traditionally used to treat a range of conditions, including fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, gastrointestinal ailments, infections, and nervous system disorders.

Notably, adaptogens like Rhodiola Rosea are substances that help the body adapt to stress and exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.

The concept of adaptogens was introduced in 1947 by Russian scientist Nikolai Lazarev, who defined them as agents that increase the organism's resistance to adverse stressors without disturbing normal biological parameters​​​​.

 

 

Rhodiola Rosea as a Nootropic

Understanding Nootropics

Nootropics, also known as smart drugs or cognitive enhancers, are substances that aim to improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals.

Rhodiola Rosea has garnered attention within this category due to its adaptogenic properties, which support the body's ability to deal with stress, and its potential impact on cognitive function and mental performance​​.

Cognitive Function and Memory Enhancement

Several studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of Rhodiola Rosea on cognitive functions.

For instance, a study found that the SHR-5 extract of Rhodiola Rosea improved mental performance, attention, and cognitive function in individuals experiencing fatigue.

These improvements were noted after both single and repeated administration, indicating Rhodiola Rosea's potential as a cognitive enhancer​​.

Mood Improvement and Stress Reduction

Beyond its effects on cognitive function, Rhodiola Rosea has shown significant potential in reducing stress and improving mood.

Clinical trials have reported that Rhodiola extract was effective in preventing physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion in individuals with fatigue syndrome.

Furthermore, it has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate depression and generalized anxiety, showcasing its comprehensive effects on mood improvement and stress reduction​​.

Neuroprotective Properties

Rhodiola Rosea also exhibits neuroprotective properties, which are crucial for its nootropic effects.

Salidroside, one of the active compounds in Rhodiola Rosea, has been shown to protect neuronal PC12 cells against cytotoxicity induced by amyloid-beta, a substance linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Additionally, salidroside-pretreated mesenchymal stem cells have contributed to neuroprotection in cerebral ischemic injury models both in vitro and in vivo.

These findings highlight the potential of Rhodiola Rosea in not only enhancing cognitive function and reducing stress but also in offering protection against neurodegenerative processes​​​​.

 

Scientific Evidence on Rhodiola Rosea's Benefits

  1. Enhancing Cognitive Function

Study: Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue - a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract (SHR-5) with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty​​.

  • Aim: The study aimed to evaluate the effect of Rhodiola rosea extract (SHR-5) on mental performance, particularly focusing on fatigue, in young healthy physicians during night duty.
  • Method: This double-blind cross-over study involved 56 physicians who received either Rhodiola rosea extract or a placebo in a repeated low-dose regimen. Mental performance was assessed using various cognitive tests reflecting complex perceptive and cognitive functions.
  • Results: The study observed a statistically significant improvement in mental performance among those who took Rhodiola rosea extract, suggesting its potential to enhance cognitive function and combat work-related fatigue without reported serious side effects.
  1. Effects on Mental Resource Allocation and Attention

Study: Effects of a Rhodiola rosea extract on mental resource allocation and attention: An event-related potential dual-task study​​.

  • Aim: This research investigated the impact of Rhodiola rosea extract (WS® 1375) on mental resource allocation and attention through an event-related potential measurement in a dual-task paradigm.
  • Method: Fifty adult participants were treated with Rhodiola rosea extract for 12 weeks and subjected to a neuropsychological test battery to assess changes in attention and mental resources.
  • Results: The study found improvements in reaction times and attention network tasks, suggesting enhanced mental speed and resources.
  1. Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Study: A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)​​.

  • Aim: To evaluate the efficacy of Rhodiola rosea in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
  • Method: Ten participants with GAD received Rhodiola rosea extract for 10 weeks. The assessment was based on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) and other scales.
  • Results: Significant decreases in mean HARS scores were observed, indicating Rhodiola's potential benefit in managing anxiety symptoms. 
  1. Effects on Stress-induced Fatigue

Study: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel-group study of the standardized extract SHR-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue​​.

  • Aim: To assess the efficacy of Rhodiola rosea extract (SHR-5) in treating individuals with stress-related fatigue.
  • Method: Sixty participants were randomized to receive either Rhodiola rosea extract or a placebo. The effects were measured using various scales and tests, including quality of life and symptoms of fatigue.
  • Results: The study observed significant improvements in symptoms of fatigue and quality of life among participants taking Rhodiola rosea extract, suggesting its effectiveness in improving cognitive symptoms of stress and fatigue. Benefits for Cardiovascular Health
  1. Benefits for Cardiovascular Health

Study: Rhodiola-water extract induces β-endorphin secretion to lower blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats.

  • Aim: The study aimed to evaluate the antihypertensive effects of Rhodiola Rosea water extract on spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and explore the mechanisms behind these effects.
  • Method: The study measured systolic blood pressure (SBP) and heart rate in conscious male SHRs using the tail-cuff method. Researchers assessed the impact of Rhodiola Rosea water extract on blood pressure and examined the role of β-endorphin secretion in mediating these effects. The study also explored the involvement of the opioid μ-receptor and adrenal function in the extract's hypotensive action.
  • Results: Administration of Rhodiola Rosea water extract led to a dose-dependent reduction in SBP in SHRs, an effect that was more pronounced than in normal Wistar-Kyoto rats. This blood pressure reduction was inhibited by pretreatment with the selective opioid μ-receptor antagonist cyprodime, but not by naloxonazine, an opioid μ1-receptor specific antagonist. The hypotensive action was attenuated in adrenalectomized SHRs, and the extract was found to dose-dependently increase β-endorphin release in SHRs. These findings suggest that the Rhodiola Rosea water extract can induce the release of β-endorphin to lower blood pressure in SHRs through mechanisms involving opioid μ-receptor activation and adrenal function.

 

 

Health Benefits Beyond Cognition

Rhodiola Rosea offers a range of health benefits that extend far beyond cognitive enhancement, contributing to its reputation as a versatile adaptogenic herb.

Antioxidant Properties of Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea exhibits strong antioxidant properties, protecting cells from oxidative stress-induced damage.

This is critical for overall health, as oxidative stress is linked to a myriad of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Studies have highlighted Rhodiola's ability to enhance the body's antioxidant defenses, particularly through its effects on oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy individuals.

By modulating these biomarkers, Rhodiola Rosea supports the body's natural ability to fight oxidative stress and promotes longevity and better health.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Inflammation is a natural response of the body to infection and injury, but chronic inflammation is associated with numerous diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Rhodiola Rosea has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, which may contribute to its health benefits.

Specifically, oligomeric proanthocyanidins from Rhodiola Rosea have shown potential in reducing atherosclerosis in a rat model through hypolipemic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory activities, along with regulation of endothelial function.

This multifaceted approach to combating inflammation underscores Rhodiola's potential in preventing and managing chronic inflammatory conditions​​.

Potential in Enhancing Physical Endurance and Recovery

Rhodiola Rosea's adaptogenic properties are particularly beneficial for physical endurance and recovery.

Research has shown that acute intake of Rhodiola can improve endurance exercise performance, enhancing the body's ability to sustain physical activities for longer periods.

This is attributed to Rhodiola's ability to increase energy supply to muscles and improve the efficiency of energy metabolism during exercise.

Moreover, Rhodiola supplementation has been linked to improved recovery after exhaustive exercise, reducing levels of C-reactive protein and creatinine kinase in the blood, which are markers of muscle damage and inflammation.

This not only aids in faster recovery but also decreases the risk of cardiac disorders, highlighting Rhodiola's role in supporting cardiovascular health in addition to enhancing physical performance​​​​.

 

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How to Use Rhodiola Rosea

Different Forms of Rhodiola Rosea Consumption

Rhodiola Rosea can be consumed in various forms, including capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and tea.

The form chosen often depends on individual preferences and the specific health goals one aims to achieve.

Capsules and tablets provide a convenient, measured dose of Rhodiola Rosea, while liquid extracts can be easily added to water or other beverages.

Tea, made from Rhodiola Rosea roots, offers a natural and traditional way to enjoy the herb's benefits​​​​.

Recommended Dosages for Health Benefits

The effective dosage of Rhodiola Rosea may vary depending on the individual, the form of Rhodiola being used, and the specific health conditions being targeted.

However, most clinical studies have used doses ranging from 200 mg to 600 mg per day.

It's important to start with a lower dose to assess tolerance before gradually increasing to a higher dose if needed and tolerated​​.

Dosage Information from Clinical Trials

Clinical trials have provided insights into the dosages of Rhodiola Rosea that may be effective for various health conditions.

For improving cognitive function and reducing fatigue, dosages ranging from 200 mg to 400 mg per day have been used.

In studies focusing on stress reduction and mood improvement, similar dosages have been effective.

In one study involving 40 medical students, participants were randomized to receive either 50 mg of a standardized R. rosea extract or a placebo twice daily for 20 days.

The treatment group showed significant improvements in physical fitness, neuro-motoric functions, mental performance, and general well-being, including reductions in mental fatigue and improved sleep patterns​​.

In a follow-up study, 60 students received either 660 mg/day of R. rosea extract, a placebo, or no treatment for 20 days.

Those taking R. rosea experienced increased physical work capacity, better coordination, kinesthetic sensitivity, and general well-being, along with decreased fatigue and situational anxiety​​.

These studies highlight that dosages can vary significantly depending on the study's goals, from as low as 50 mg per day to as high as 660 mg per day for enhancing cognitive and physical performance.

It is crucial to note that Rhodiola Rosea extracts should be standardized to contain a specific percentage of rosavins and salidroside, the active compounds, to ensure effectiveness​​​​.

Timing and Combining with Other Supplements

Rhodiola Rosea can be taken at any time of the day, but many prefer to take it in the morning or early afternoon to avoid potential interference with sleep. It can be taken with or without food according to personal preference.

When combining Rhodiola Rosea with other supplements, it is essential to consider any potential interactions.

Rhodiola Rosea is often combined with other adaptogens, vitamins, and minerals to enhance overall stress resilience and energy levels.

However, consulting with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen is advisable, especially when combining multiple supplements​​.

 

Safety and Side Effects

General Safety of Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is generally considered safe when used in the recommended dosages.

A clinical trial investigating the therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola Rosea extract WS® 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms found that Rhodiola Rosea extract was safe and generally well tolerated.

The study, conducted over four weeks with a dosage of 200 mg twice daily, reported no serious adverse events, with adverse events being mostly of mild intensity​​.

Overview of Safety Based on Clinical Studies

Clinical studies have consistently indicated that Rhodiola Rosea has a favorable safety profile.

For instance, the SHR-5 Rhodiola Rosea extract has undergone extensive toxicological studies and has been certified safe for both animals and humans.

Standard dosages used in clinical trials range from 200 mg to 600 mg per day, reflecting its safety across different consumption levels​​.

Potential Side Effects and Precautions

While Rhodiola Rosea is generally safe, some individuals may experience mild side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping, especially when taken in high doses or later in the day.

It's important for individuals to start with a lower dose to assess tolerance and gradually adjust as necessary​​.

Insights from Research on Side Effects

Research has indicated that Rhodiola Rosea's side effects are minimal. Clinical trials have highlighted its efficacy in improving various health conditions without significant adverse effects.

However, as with any supplement, individual responses can vary, and monitoring for any personal side effects is advisable​​.

Interactions with Medications and Specific Health Conditions

While Rhodiola Rosea is safe for most individuals, it may interact with certain medications, particularly those affecting the central nervous system, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Patients with specific health conditions or those taking prescription medications should consult a healthcare professional before starting Rhodiola Rosea to avoid potential interactions​​.

Importance of Moderation and Consulting with a Healthcare Professional

Moderation is key when incorporating Rhodiola Rosea or any supplement into your regimen.

Despite its safety profile, consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial, especially for individuals with existing health conditions or those on medication.

This ensures that Rhodiola Rosea is a suitable and beneficial addition to one's health and wellness routine without adverse effects​​​​.

In summary, Rhodiola Rosea offers a range of therapeutic benefits with a generally favorable safety profile.

Adhering to recommended dosages, being mindful of potential side effects, and consulting with a healthcare professional can help individuals safely incorporate this adaptogenic herb into their wellness practices.

 

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Conclusion

Throughout this guide, we've explored the definition, historical uses, and the extensive health benefits of Rhodiola Rosea.

From its role as a cognitive enhancer and mood stabilizer to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Rhodiola Rosea stands out as a versatile natural supplement.

Supported by scientific evidence, its potential in improving mental and physical health is clear, providing a compelling case for its integration into wellness and cognitive enhancement regimens.

As with any supplement, it's essential to consider the recommended dosages, potential side effects, and the importance of consulting with a healthcare professional to ensure its suitability for your individual health needs.

By incorporating Rhodiola Rosea into your daily life with moderation and mindfulness, you can tap into its adaptogenic powers to support your journey towards optimal health and well-being.

Are you considering joining the ranks of those who have experienced the cognitive benefits of nootropics? To learn more about how our Mood & Wellbeing Nootropic Supplement might fit into your lifestyle, visit us at nooroots.

 

Learn more about the vitamins, minerals and plant extracts we use to give your brain a daily boost

 

References

  • Anghelescu, I., Edwards, D. H., Seifritz, E., & Kasper, S. (2018). Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 22(4), 242–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442
  • Bystritsky, A., Kerwin, L., & Feusner, J. D. (2008). A Pilot Study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax®) for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(2), 175–180. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2007.7117
  • Cropley, M., Banks, A. P., & Boyle, J. (2015). The effects ofRhodiola roseaL. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition and other mood symptoms. Phytotherapy Research, 29(12), 1934–1939. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5486
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  • Edwards, D. H., Heufelder, A. E., & Zimmermann, A. (2012). Therapeutic Effects and Safety of Rhodiola rosea Extract WS® 1375 in Subjects with Life‐stress Symptoms – Results of an Open‐label Study. Phytotherapy Research, 26(8), 1220–1225. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.3712
  • Koop, T., Dienel, A., Heldmann, M., & Münte, T. F. (2020). Effects of a Rhodiola rosea extract on mental resource allocation and attention: An event‐related potential dual task study. Phytotherapy Research, 34(12), 3287–3297. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6778
  • Lee, W., Chung, H., Cheng, Y., Lin, H. J., & Cheng, J. (2012). Rhodiola‐Water Extract Induces β‐endorphin Secretion to Lower Blood Pressure in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats. Phytotherapy Research, 27(10), 1543–1547. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.4900
  • Lekomtseva, Y., Жукова, И. А., & Wacker, A. (2017). <b><i>Rhodiola rosea</i></b> in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial. Complementary Medicine Research, 24(1), 46–52. https://doi.org/10.1159/000457918
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