Seven science-based health benefits of Rhodiola rosea

Photographs courtesy of wikimedia commons and nccih Best known for its claim as an adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea promises a substance that helps the body adapt to stress.

Rhodiola rosea, commonly known as Arctic root, golden root, king’s crown and rose root, is a flowering herb that grows in cold mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. It has a long medical history in Russia, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe. Traditionally, it was an attempt to increase endurance, work performance, and tolerance of high altitude and to treat fatigue, weakness and other symptoms.

Best known for its claim as an adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea promises a substance that helps the body adapt to stress. Based on several small studies, the extract of this plant provides benefits for mental health and heart function. Its roots carry more than 140 active ingredients, with the most potent rosavin and salidroside.
Here are seven beneficial effects of the plant based on studues:

1. It may reduce stress
According to a 2005 article, Rhodiola rosea is described as a “versatile adaptogen,” as the herb can increase one’s body resistance. Consuming this during stressful times is thought to help you manage the situation better. In particular, the author states that it has a possible treatment for reducing stress hormone levels and stress-induced heart problems.

In a study that involved 118 people with stress-related burnout, participants took 400 mg of Rhodiola daily for 12 weeks. As a result, the study showed a clear improvement during the first week in various symptoms such as stress and depression, commonly related to burnout.

Researchers pointed out that this was the first clinical outcome of a trial investigation of Rhodiola as a treatment for burnout. They found encouraging results and recommended further trials.

2. May help with fatigue
Stress, anxiety, and inadequate sleep contribute to fatigue, which can cause physical and mental tiredness. Hence, because of its adaptogenic properties, Rhodiola is believed to alleviate fatigue. In a study, 100 people with chronic fatigue symptoms received 400 milligrams of Rhodiola every day for eight weeks. Participants experienced significant improvements in stress, symptoms, fatigue, quality of life, mood, and concentration. These were monitored after a week of treatment and continued to improve through the final week of the study.

3. May decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety
Depression may happen when the chemicals in your brain become unbalanced. If this persists, health professionals commonly prescribed antidepressants to correct these imbalances.

Rhodiola has been suggested to have antidepressant properties, which helped neurotransmitters’ stability. It positively influenced neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotion. One study compared the effects of Rhodiola with sertraline, a prescribed antidepressant which is sold under Zoloft. In this study, 57 people diagnosed with depression were randomly assigned to receive Rhodiola sertraline for 12 weeks.

While properties of Rhodiola and sertraline both reduced symptoms of depression, it came out that sertraline had a greater effect. However, the herb did not reduce symptoms as effectively as sertraline, but Rhodiola produced fewer side effects and was better tolerated.

On the other hand, one study found evidence that suggests Rhodiola may reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Ten people were included in this study and took 340 mg of Rhodiola extract for 10 weeks.

4. May improve brain function
Proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercise surely helps to keep your brain running strong. But taking supplements such as Rhodiola may also boost brain performance.

In a study where 36 animals were involved, it concluded that Rhodiola may improve learning ability and memory function. It found out that a single dose of this supplement increased memory and had an antidepressant effect on mice. Aside from that, it is proposed that Rhodiola could be a tool to enhance cognition and counteract mood disorders in people.

Aside from that, other research suggests that Rhodiola has therapeutic properties and may be beneficial to any age-related disease. However, more studies are needed to validate these findings.

5. May enhance athletic performance
It was suggested that Rhodiola may improve exercise function as it reduces physical and mental fatigue and increases antioxidant activity. However, findings in these claims are still a puzzle.
On a positive note, one animal study discovered that Rhodiola could improve muscle power and strength performance in rats. They were given Rhodiola extract combined with another compound called Rhaponticum carthamoides after exercise.

Another study found that consuming Rhodiola shorted the reaction time and total response time in young, healthy, and physically active men. It had no overall effect on endurance but it added antioxidant activity. Moreover, another study proved that Rhodiola has been shown to enhance exercise performance by decreasing perceived exertion.

In contrast, some research showed that supplementation of Rhodiola did not change oxygen uptake or muscle performance and did not help the immune system of marathon athletes.

However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that there is insufficient human studies to conclude Rhodiola is beneficial to any health-related use. Therefore, parts of this may be researchers have yet to confirm exactly how Rhodiola affects human performance.

6. May help manage diabetes
According to the World Health Organization, diabetes is a chronic disease when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose.

People who suffer from this disease commonly use insulin injections to medicate their insulin sensitivity to better manage their blood sugar levels.

In animal research, Rhodiola may help diabetes management. The salidroside compound found in Rhodiola gives protection against diabetes and diabetic nephropathy — kidney disease in rats. These studies were conducted in rats therefore, its results cannot be generalized to humans. However, it was suggested that it may be a valuable supplement to diabetes management in humans. But more human study needs to be collected to validate this claim.

7. May have potential anti-cancer elements
Salidroside, an active potent of Rhodiola, has been under investigation for its anticancer properties. According to animal studies, the test-tube recommends that Rhodiola may impede growth of lung, bladder, gastric, and colon cancer cells. Aside from that, it is seen to be useful in many types of cancer treatment. However, until human studies become available, its reception to human cancer remains uncertain.

How to take supplements containing Rhodiola rosea?
Rhodiola is a rare plant and is available as an extract in capsules, tea, and tablets. However, some prefer to take the pill because of its efficient dosing. Most people take Rhodiola extract that contains between 100 to 200 milligrams with three percent rosavins and 0.8 to one percent of salidroside.

On the other hand, it is suggested to take a single or divided dose ranging from 400 to 600 mg per day for improving symptoms of stress, fatigue, or depression.

One article recommends taking the herb on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before breakfast and lunch but not before bedtime as it has a slightly stimulating effect.

Who can take Rhodiola rosea?
Because of its mild stimulating effect, people who have bipolar disorder and those who are taking other stimulants are discouraged to take Rhodiola. Aside from that, little is discovered about whether it is safe to consume for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

If you are planning to take this, it would be best to consult your physician first.

What is its side effect?
Rhodiola’s therapeutic claims have yet to be proven, but most studies all seem to agree that its side effects are mild. Possible side effects may include dizziness, sleep problems, dry mouth or excessive saliva production, and jitteriness.

Jitteriness is most likely a problem among those who are prone to anxiety — taking higher doses of supplement. Therefore, it may be a natural option if Rhodiola is worth trying for its intended uses.

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