Rhodiola rosea may sound like a trendy new baby name (and, hey, who are we to say it can’t be?) but in reality, it’s a Latin name for a medicinal herb grown in the chilly high altitudes of Europe and Asia.
This green and yellow plant also goes by the names arctic root, golden root, king’s crown, and rose root. As a dietary supplement, you can take it in capsules, tablets, powders, or a liquid extract.
Although conclusive evidence of its benefits is limited, it’s been used traditionally in Siberia for centuries to treat stress, depression, and fatigue. Here are the 9 most important things to know about Rhodiola rosea.
Rhodiola rosea takes its place among a group of rising-star supplements known as adaptogens. These plant-based substances are thought to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of physical and emotional stress.
It’s not just woo-woo, we promise. Animal and test tube studies have found that adaptogenic herbs could have neuroprotective, antifatigue, and antidepressive activity.
Rhodiola rosea, in particular, has been studied for its effects on stress. In one nonrandomized trial, people who took 200 milligrams twice a day for 4 weeks showed reduced symptoms of stress and impaired daily functioning.
The even bigger wow factor: Some subjects felt better after just 3 days of treatment.
This cold-climate root might be helpful for burnout and mental exhaustion, too.
A 2017 study gave daily, 400 milligram doses of rhodiola to 118 people for 12 weeks, then took note of their anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Researchers saw clear improvements — especially in categories like “lack of joy” and “loss of zest for life.”
Step… away… from… the espresso! Rhodiola rosea might be your no-caffeine ticket to more energy and less fatigue.
In a study of 100 people, a 400 milligram dosage began to reduce feelings of tiredness after just 1 week, with even more improvement at 8 weeks. And this wasn’t just a group of sleep-deprived average Joes; subjects were sufferers of chronic fatigue.
The evidence continues for this adaptogen’s fatigue-fighting effects. Another study found that people who took Rhodiola rosea for a month had less fatigue and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as compared to those on a placebo.
With all these benefits, rhodiola may seem like an all-purpose wonder-herb. And many believe its stress-reducing, energy-enhancing effects make it a potential weight loss aid as well? However, more research is needed to say for sure.
There was one animal study that showed the supplement had potential as an obesity-reduction treatment for rats (but rats are, after all, not usually people).
And there’s also been promising results about Rhodiola rosea’s ability to improve exercise performance, which could in theory help a person shed pounds.
Rhodiola rosea isn’t known to have any serious side effects and is considered safe and nontoxic for most humans. That said, due diligence is key to select a safe, quality supplement (more on that in a sec).
Some mild side effects you may experience include:
- dry mouth
- sleep problems
Also, due to a lack of research, you should also steer clear of this adaptogen if you’re pregnant and breastfeeding. People with bipolar disorder also shouldn’t take Rhodiola rosea without a doctor’s supervision.
Although the FDA technically maintains oversight over dietary supplements, things can get a bit murky when you start down the road of OTC pills and capsules. Compared to the tightly regulated prescription drug industry, the dietary supplement world is more of the Wild, Wild West.
It’s up to you to be savvy when choosing any supplement, and Rhodiola rosea is no exception. A 2016 study that analyzed 40 Rhodiola rosea products found their quality and authenticity varied significantly.
Want to be certain that what you see is what you get? Look for the USP or NSF seal, which means a supplement’s contents have been vetted by a third party.
Seeing as how Rhodiola rosea is an energizing adaptogen, it only makes sense that morning is the best time to take it. In fact, research indicates it’s best absorbed on an empty stomach 30 minutes before you sit down to (or rush out the door with) breakfast.
Note, too, that it can cause vivid dreams if taken too late in the day.
If you’re considering a Rhodiola rosea supplement, make 400 to 600 milligrams (mg) your daily target. This amount has been deemed safe, effective, and generally well-tolerated.
Though it’s important to note, Rhodiola rosea can interact with several prescription medications, including those used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, antidepressants, and others. Check with your healthcare provider if considering a rhodiola supplement.
While some research has found Rhodiola rosea could take effect within a matter of days, you’ll experience maximum benefits by consistent use. Most studies and clinical trials show it takes about 4 weeks to see improvements. However, there are few, if any, long-term studies longer than 6 to 10 weeks in length.
Here’s a fascinating twist: The herb that might make you more resilient is extremely resilient itself. The inhospitable elements of high elevation, cold weather, and intense sun are the very conditions that have caused Rhodiola rosea to develop its healing compounds. Isn’t nature cool?