Rhodiola Rosea: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, and Dosage

Rhodiola rosea is a supplement you probably have never heard of. Quite honestly that is a gosh darn shame because it provides many benefits as it relates to overall health and performance.

More specifically, Rhodiola is a powerful adaptogen (we will discuss what that means later), a neuroprotective agent, and ergogenic aid.

In this article we are going to talk about what rhodiola rosea is, benefits, the research on it, and the correct dosage to use to get maximal benefits

What is rhodiola rosea?

Rhodiola is a type of herb in the crassulacean family which have traditionally been used as an adaptogen. 

What exactly is an adaptogen you may ask?

Adaptogens are any supplement or compound that may have an effect of anxiety, stress, insomnia, brain health, energy, and depression.

They work by interacting with the activity and signaling of neurotransmitters, hormones, and other molecules in the brain.

With rhodiola rosea the two powerful compounds found in it that make it a powerful adaptogen are rosavin and salidroside

 

 

What is rosavin?

Rosavin is a glycoside (a compound made from a simple sugar and another compound). In the case of rosavin it is a cinnamyl alcohol glycoside.  As a compound in rhodiola, rosavin it thought to be responsible for the anxiolytic (inhibits anxiety) and anti-depressant effects.

What is salidroside?

The second potent compound in rhodiola is salidroside. Salidroside is a glucoside (a glycoside derived from glucose). Like rosavin, salidroside is an anxiolytic and appears to be a more active agent in rhodiola rosea.

Now that we know what rhodiola is, let us talk about some on the benefits and the research to support them.

Rhodiola rosea benefits

rhodiola reduces stress

The benefits of rhodiola are:

  • Reduces fatigue and burnout
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Enhances cognition
  • Improves mood
  • Decreases depression
  • Neuroprotective against toxins
  • Increases serotonin
  • Reduces corticosteroids
  • May promote longevity
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Increases time to exhaustion during aerobic exercise
  • Reduces blood lactate

Let us briefly look at the research behind these benefits/claims

Fatigue & Cognition

Over 14 studies exist strongly demonstrating that supplementing with rhodiola rosea daily can reliably decrease fatigue.

A 2000 study conducted by Darbinyan et al. demonstrated that 170mg of rhodiola taken daily for two weeks significantly reduced fatigue and improved work-related tasks by 20%.

This subjects in this double blinded study were 59 males and female physicians, who have some of the highest rates of fatigue and burnout of any professions.

Depression & Well Being

A 2007 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study of 89 subjects discovered that supplementing with rhodiola for 42 days was able to significantly reduce the symptoms of depression by 30-50%.

Stress & Anxiety

Six studies exist demonstrating that rhodiola can consistently reduce stress and anxiety when supplemented with daily.

One study was conducted by Cropley et al. on 80 male and female subjects.

In this randomized, unblinded trial subjects took 200mg of rhodiola twice a day for 14 days.  At the end of the study the researchers discovered that stress, anxiety, insomnia, and tension were all decreased compared to placebo.

Improved time to exhaustion during aerobic exercise

rhodiola improves aerobic performance

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated rhodiola can improve endurance performance.

In this double blinded, randomized, cross over trial, 18 subjects consumed 3mg/kg of rhodiola one hour before doing an endurance time trial on a cycle ergometer.

The researcher discovered that compared to placebo, the subjects who took the rhodiola took less time to complete the time trial. Also, RPE (how hard the time trial felt) was lower for those who supplemented with rhodiola.

Take home point. Rhodiola may help you to go faster and reduce how hard the effort felt.

Reduces blood lactate

A 2018 study conducted by Jowko et. al took 26 subjects and had them take 600mg of rhodiola or placebo daily for 4 weeks.

What they discovered was those who supplemented with rhodiola had lower blood lactate concentrations at rest and during maximal exercise.

For endurance exercise, this means athletes may be able to exercise at a higher intensity before lactate starts to accumulate and causes fatigue.

Cortisol

From previous articles we know cortisol is quite the nasty compound. It can limit recovery and send your anxiety through the roof. Luckily rhodiola can help reduce cortisol levels.

A 2008 randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled study had 60 subjects with elevated cortisol levels take 576mg of rhodiola or placebo for 28 days.

At the end of the study the researcher discovered that the cortisol levels of those who took rhodiola were lower than the placebo group.

Sleep quality

rhodiola rosea improves sleep

A 2008 study found that subjects who supplemented with 300mg of rhodiola daily for 28 days were able to improve sleep quantity and quality compared to the placebo group. The research also demonstrated that rhodiola may also improve symptoms of sleep deprivation and insomnia.

How to take rhodiola rosea

Now that we know the benefits of rhodiola, let me tell you the best way to take it for maximum benefits.

Dosage

  • Daily doses of 50mg should be used to prevent against general fatigue.
  • 300-680mg should be used for anti-stress, anxiety, improved sleep, and endurance performance.

Doses above 680 should not be taken as this amount does not seem to confer additional benefits.

When to take rhodiola

  • 30 minutes before bedtime on an empty stomach to reduce anxiety, stress, and restlessness
  • 60 minutes before exercise to improve performance and reduce blood lactate.

How long does it take rhodiola rosea to work?

What is interesting about rhodiola is it has both acute and chronic effects. It can work in as little as 60 minutes as demonstrated by the research, but it appears to confer maximal benefits when taken daily.

Side effects

Overall, rhodiola appears to be safe when taken in normal doses. However, if you are on any prescription drugs you should consult with your doctor before taking rhodiola. Known drug interactions are:

  • Liver medications
  • Diabetes medications
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Medications moved by pumps in the cells
  • Immune system medications

Also be aware that many rhodiola supplements on the market may be diluted or adulterated. When choosing a rhodiola supplement make sure it contains 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides.

Where to buy rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola can be purchased online at Amazon or any reputable supplement store. However, please make sure it is dosed at the correct concentrations.

Additionally, rhodiola can be found in EndurElite SleepElite X; a comprehensive sleep formula that improves sleep quantity and quality through the use of over 16 research proven compounds.

About the Author:

Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California.  Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.

References:

  • Darbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., Panossian, A., Gabrielian, E., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (2000). 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. Phytomedicine7(5), 365-371.
  • Darbinyan, V., Aslanyan, G., Amroyan, E., Gabrielyan, E., Malmström, C., & Panossian, A. (2007). Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic journal of psychiatry61(5), 343-348.
  • Cropley, M., Banks, A. P., & Boyle, J. (2015). The effects of Rhodiola rosea L. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition, and other mood symptoms. Phytotherapy research29(12), 1934-1939.
  • Noreen, E. E., Buckley, J. G., Lewis, S. L., Brandauer, J., & Stuempfle, K. J. (2013). The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research27(3), 839-847.
  • Jówko, E., Sadowski, J., Długołęcka, B., Gierczuk, D., Opaszowski, B., & Cieśliński, I. (2018). Effects of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on mental performance, physical capacity, and oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men. Journal of sport and health science7(4), 473-480.
  • Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica75(02), 105-112.

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