What Are the Benefits of Taking Rhodiola? A Scientific Guide

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    Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb harvested from the roots of Rhodiola Rosea. This herb can support a wide range of health goals that you should check out!

    Rhodiola may not be a supplement that you are familiar with, but you’re sure to be impressed by its health benefits. In the 20th century, rhodiola was studied extensively in the Soviet Union for its stamina benefits, especially through periods of intense stress– which made it a favorite of Russian cosmonauts. Maybe you’re not planning a trip to space (for the record, we aren’t either) but rhodiola can also help here on Earth.

    What is rhodiola?

    Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb harvested from the roots of Rhodiola Rosea, a small but mighty plant also known as “golden root” because of its yellow color, or “roseroot” because of the rose-like fragrance it gives off when cut. Rhodiola Rosea naturally grows in the high- altitude, arctic regions of Europe and Asia and has been used in traditional medicine for supporting mood, enhancing energy, and stress relief. Because of its adaptogenic properties, rhodiola can help support your body’s natural response to biological and physical stressors.

    Top 9 Rhodiola Rosea Benefits

    Rhodiola has a wide range of benefits that can support numerous aspects of your health. Thus far, rhodiola appears to be most beneficial in areas pertaining to mental and physical stress. Whether you are a full-time worker, an athlete, a student, or someone in between, rhodiola may offer benefits that can help. Here’s what we know.

    1. Supports Stress and Mood

    A person’s level of stress or general mood can have a large impact on their day, week, or month. Life is full of stressors. Actively defending against these negative outcomes is not always an easy task. Rhodiola may provide benefits that help to ease the burdens that accompany stress.

    In a study of rhodiola’s anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunomodulating properties, researchers found that “rhodiola rosea extracts and salidroside can impose cellular and systemic benefits similar to the effect of positive lifestyle interventions to normal physiological functions.”

    Rhodiola may also have a positive influence on cortisol levels—a significant marker for stress. Sixty people suffering from stress-related fatigue volunteered to participate in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The subjects were given 576 mg of rhodiola or a placebo for 28 days. The test showed that rhodiola lowered cortisol levels.

    In addition, the benefits of rhodiola have been studied in clinical trials. A 2007 clinical trial recruited 89 subjects over a 6-week period and found that the group receiving rhodiola experienced improvements in mood and emotional stability as well as improved sleep.

    2. Encourages Energy and Focus

    Rhodiola’s benefits do not appear to stop at stress and mood. Rhodiola may also provide great benefits for a person’s energy and focus. This is accomplished primarily through rhodiola’s anti-fatigue effects. Fatigue is a major barrier for anyone that needs to maintain their energy or focus throughout the day, which includes most of us. Whether you are a student taking an exam, a professional at work, a parent taking care of children, or an athlete competing in a game, stress-related fatigue could significantly impair your level of performance. Luckily, rhodiola has been studied extensively for its ability to counteract fatigue.

    A double-blind, placebo-controlled study was published examining the effect of rhodiola on students during a stressful examination period. This test found rhodiola to improve mental fatigue and neuro-motoric tests; however, it didn’t prove to be effective in other tests, such as a correction of text test and a neuro-muscular tapping test. A more recent study determined that rhodiola helped individuals with stress-related fatigue. They showed better results than the placebo group in tests administered to determine fatigue and ability to concentrate.

    Occasional fatigue can make any person’s day more challenging, especially if energy and focus are necessary to complete the tasks at hand. Rhodiola’s anti-fatigue abilities may be the game changer in supporting optimal energy levels.

    3. Endurance and Recovery

    Sports nutrition and performance are one area where rhodiola is being put to the test. Any athlete knows that endurance and recovery are key pieces in the performance puzzle. The results of a few studies are promising indications that rhodiola may play a key role in performance and recovery in the future.

    A 4-week study in 2004 found some mixed results. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study found improvements in the VO2 max for the rhodiola group compared to placebo; however, it found no changes in muscle strength, speed of limb movement, reaction time, and attention.

    Another study in 2004 found positive results for rhodiola after exercise. This study put 36 untrained, healthy volunteers through exhausting physical exercise tests carried out on a computer-aided bicycle ergometer. The group being given rhodiola showed lowered levels of c-reactive protein and creatine kinase after 5 days of exercise, whereas the placebo group experienced higher levels of the markers associated with oxidative stress. These results are encouraging for the role of rhodiola in expediting recovery rates.

    If you are looking to improve your endurance or recovery, rhodiola is worth considering.

    4. Natural Blood Sugar Management (Already in a Healthy Range)

    Rhodiola may also play a role in supporting blood sugar levels that are already within a healthy range. Findings from this study suggest that one of its active constituents, salidroside, could potentially aid in the management of healthy blood sugar levels, though more research is needed to fully understand its effects.

    An animal study has shown promising results, indicating that rhodiola has the potential to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. However, when it comes to blood sugar control, the best way to maintain healthy levels is to follow a balanced, nutritious diet and partake in regular physical activity.

    6. Promotes Cellular Health

    Rhodiola has shown potential in promoting cellular health, although further research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms. Preliminary research results are promising, though, suggesting that rhodiola possesses antioxidant-like properties that can help manage oxidative stress and promote cellular health. Moreover, rhodiola has been linked to cellular stress management, helping cells cope with various stressors more effectively.

    7. Supports Heart Health

    Rhodiola may support heart health primarily through its ability to aid in stress management. While direct studies linking rhodiola to heart health are still needed, there is evidence to suggest that its stress-reducing properties could have indirect benefits for cardiovascular health. Additionally, the herb's antioxidant properties may contribute to managing oxidative stress, which is important for maintaining a healthy heart.

    Animal studies have also shown potential signs of heart-supportive properties in rhodiola (by managing stress), but further research is still warranted.

    8. Supports Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

    Rhodiola may have the ability to support blood pressure levels that are already within the normal range. Preliminary animal studies have shown there is potential for a positive impact on blood pressure. For instance, in one animal study using a water extract of rhodiola, the release of endorphins were observed, which resulted in lower systolic blood pressure. Endorphins are the group of hormones released during and/or after intense exercise that contribute to a positive sense of well-being. However, to draw concrete conclusions, further research with healthy human subjects is needed.

    In addition, rhodiola may contribute to healthy blood pressure levels due to its impact on stress management. Stress is a major factor that can contribute to blood pressure changes, so rhodiola may indirectly promote healthy blood pressure levels by minimizing stress.

    Overall, maintaining healthy blood pressure is a multi-factor undertaking. It requires a healthy lifestyle that includes adequate sleep, a balanced diet, stress management, regular exercise, and limited consumption of alcohol.

    9. Supports Sexual Health

    If sexual challenges are linked to stress, then rhodiola may be helpful. Preliminary animal studies have indicated encouraging results, indicating that the herb's stress-reducing properties might have a positive impact on sexual function, yet more research in humans is needed.

    If you are facing sexual health concerns, it’s recommended to seek professional guidance. There are a number of tailored approaches that could help you better understand your sexual health, such as education, hygiene, lab testing, exams, barrier methods, and fertility.

    Are there any side effects of taking rhodiola?

    It is important to note that the known side effects of rhodiola are not complete. For example, there is some evidence that rhodiola can stimulate the mind and body in an undesired manner for some people. The safety profile of rhodiola will likely expand as research continues. For example, information regarding rhodiola and pregnancy or breastfeeding is absent at this time, but may be known in the near future.

    Which rhodiola supplement should I take?

    When selecting a rhodiola supplement, it is important to purchase from a reputable source. A reputable source will include clear information on the product label and describe the evidence behind the quantities contained in the supplement.

    If you are seeking any of the benefits detailed above, you should seek out a high quality rhodiola supplement. For example, sourcing is important for rhodiola and some are harvested from its natural habitat, high in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. How high? We’re talking thin-air altitudes of 10,000-12,000 feet, which means that rhodiola is really efficient at absorbing oxygen withstanding stressful conditions, and being resilient which it can help your body do the same. Care/of’s Rhodiola is non-GMO, C.L.E.A.N certified, gluten-free, third-party tested, free of unnecessary fillers, and vegan friendly.

    The bottom line

    Rhodiola rosea is an impressive herb with an array of health benefits. From supporting stress and mood to promoting energy, focus, and endurance, rhodiola can be a valuable addition to your supplement regimen. Studies have shown its potential to aid in blood sugar management, support cellular health, and possibly benefit heart health. As with any supplement, it’s always recommended to speak with your healthcare provider before use and to choose a high-quality product.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.