By: Dr. Colin O’Brien ND, Ontario Regional Manager, Cyto-Matrix
Summer has once again come and gone and it’s time to get back into a solid routine. Whether you’re a parent with toddlers headed back to school, a graduate student or just an everyday worker going back into the office after some vacation time, we all could use a little extra support to help us push through the busy fall season. Regular sleep, a healthy diet and moderate exercise will always be the foundation for stress resiliency, but when more support is needed, a little-known herb called Rhodiola rosea can help your body adapt and adjust accordingly.
What is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola rosea, also known as ‘golden root’, is a medicinal herb that has traditionally been used in Russia, Scandinavia and other European countries for a wide variety of health concerns. It is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it can help your body adapt to stress! As you can imagine, the ability to increase resiliency to stress is highly sought after by many parents, students, workers and others in high pace lifestyles, so the popularity of rhodiola has been growing steadily in North America.
Why Should You Consider Using Rhodiola?
Traditionally, rhodiola has been used as a stimulant, to increase attention span, memory and physical endurance, but also to treat a wide variety of health concerns such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, anemia, infections and impotence. Most importantly, rhodiola is particularly effective for these concerns when stress is at the root cause of the problem.
Clinical research has been able to confirm many of these wonderful applications for rhodiola root extract. Here are a few highlights:
Burnout: Although rhodiola has been traditionally used for this purpose for many years, brand new research has supported its ability to help people suffering from symptoms of burnout. 118 men and women between the ages of 30-60 took rhodiola rosea extract for 12 weeks and significant improvements were noted in areas of emotional exhaustion, fatigue and joy. An increased ‘zest of life’ and sexual interest and functioning were also found in those taking rhodiola root.
Exercise Performance & Recovery: Research has shown that even short term dosing (ie 4 days) of rhodiola can increase time to exhaustion and oxygen utilization during athletic performance. Perhaps just as important, rhodiola has been found to reduce levels of inflammation in the body 5 hours post-exercise and also 5 days after intense exercise, meaning that it can speed recovery times.
Depression & Anxiety: In a 2007 study of 60 patients suffering from mild to moderate depression, rhodiola extract was shown to significantly improve depression markers such as insomnia, self-esteem and emotional stability when compared to placebo. Similar improvements have been noted in studies and in practitioner feedback when examining the benefits on generalized anxiety disorder. Clinically, many practitioners recommend rhodiola to patients that present as “wired and tired”, meaning anxious and on edge, yet exhausted.
How Does Rhodiola Work in the Body?
Research has found that one of the ways in which rhodiola positively impacts the mental health of an individual is through the balancing of neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain that are responsible for regulating mood. Rhodiola specifically prevents the breakdown of adrenaline, serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine, thereby increasing their action in the brain. This ultimately improves cognitive measures such as mood, memory and attention.
Although there are many active ingredients within the whole plant extract, rosavins appear to hold most of the medicinal power. With this in mind, it is important to select a rhodiola supplement that specifies the rosavin content.
But is Rhodiola Safe?
Yes, rhodiola is extremely safe for the vast majority of the population. However, pregnant women, nursing mothers and those diagnosed with bipolar disorder should avoid or consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation.
In the end, rhodiola root is a great option for those feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Whether high stress in your life leads to poor sleep, depressed mood, low energy or even recurring colds and flus, rhodiola may be that missing piece to help get you out of your slump. Everyone needs support from time to time and rhodiola can be the much-needed crutch during a busy transition!
- Hung SK, Perry R, Ernst E. The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine 18 (2011) 235–244.
- Bystritsky A, Kerwin L, Feusner JD. A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Mar;14(2):175-80.
- Kasper S and Dienel A. Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola roseaextract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017; 13: 889–898.
- De Bock, K., Eijnde, B.O., Ramaekers, M., et al., 2004. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake an improve endurance exercise performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism 14 (3), 298–307.
- Abidov, M., Grachev, S., Seifulla, R.D., et al., 2004. Extract of Rhodiola rosea radixof Experimental Biology and Medicine 138 (1), 63–64. reduces the level of C-reactive protein and creatinine kinase in the blood. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine 138 (1), 63–64.
- Darbinyan, V., Aslanyan, G., Amroyan, E., et al., 2007. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L .extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic Journalof Psychiatry 61 (6), 503.