Health Benefits of Rhodiola

Also known as golden root and “arctic root,” rhodiola is a supplement that is taken to treat stress, fatigue, and a variety of other common conditions. Made from the rhodiola plant, which grows at cold, high altitudes in Europe, rhodiola can be used in tablet form or taken as a tincture.

People who practice Eastern medicine, as well as European medical professionals in Scandinavia and Russia, classify this supplement as an adaptogen — a non-toxic plant that helps protect the body from the effects of stress.

But should you take rhodiola? Learn about the health benefits and risks of rhodiola before you add it to your diet.

Health Benefits

Those who take rhodiola regularly tout its benefits in everything from reducing fatigue to helping people combat anxiety and depression. It can also help improve stamina, energy, and athletic performance.

Other health benefits of rhodiola include:

Reducing Anxiety

In the current era, people are busier than ever. We are plugged in and available at all times, which is exciting, but it can also lead to feeling overwhelmed or worried. Anxiety is the feeling of extreme worry. Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but sometimes the feelings control you, and that’s when it becomes a problem called an anxiety disorder.

Rhodiola helps to reduce anxiety and ease the effects of stress through the presence of antioxidants in its makeup. Your body uses antioxidants — like vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E — to fight cell damage from molecules called free radicals. Plants and fruits are rich in these antioxidants.

A study discussed in an article in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry showed that taking antioxidants also helped reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. The study noted that people with these conditions had lower levels of antioxidants in their bodies at the onset of the study. After taking antioxidants for a set period, many of the participants showed a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.

Helps Slow the Signs of Aging

Antioxidants also help the body to age more gracefully. Normal bodily wear and tear occurs as cells get damaged over time, but certain antioxidants can help to slow this process by acting on DNA. These compounds can also help cells resist damage caused by environmental stressors, such as smoking or radiation.

Improves Memory

Rhodiola is commonly used to improve memory and mental performance. Research is ongoing to study the effects of rhodiola on people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other attentive conditions. These studies have shown a positive impact of rhodiola on mental function, because it reduces fatigue and stress.

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Health Risks

In general, the side effects of rhodiola are mild. However, most herbal supplements do cause side effects, and they may interfere with certain medications. It’s always best to ask your doctor about potential risks before starting any treatment. 

Medical Interaction

Since rhodiola reduces stress and anxiety, it can be tempting for people with anxiety disorders to add it to their treatment regimen. However, mixing rhodiola with common anti-anxiety medication can cause health problems, including irregular heartbeat.

Long-Term Side Effects

While studies have been conducted on animals to determine the potential benefits and side effects of rhodiola, there have been few studies on humans. However, in studies conducted on humans, most are limited to short periods of time. Therefore, the long-term effects have not been studied thoroughly, and you may be safer limiting use of rhodiola to shorter periods of 6 to 12 weeks.  

Limited Testing

Most studies show that rhodiola is safe and works for its intended use, particularly reducing the body’s reaction to stress. However, it has not been tested on pregnant women. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking rhodiola. 

Amounts and Dosage

Many rhodiola supplements range from 100 milligrams to 500 milligrams. The recommended dose is 200 milligrams twice daily. In some studies, people were given up to 1,500 milligrams per day. However, with herbal supplements, it is best to start with a smaller dose to see what kinds of side effects you may experience. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 05, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Antioxidants and aging."

Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital: "Rhodiola rosea."

Indian Journal of Psychiatry: "Role of antioxidants in generalised anxiety disorder and depression."

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Rhodiola."

Mental Health America: "Rhodiola Rosea."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Rhodiola."

Neural Plasticity: "Natural Product-Derived Treatments for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Safety, Efficacy, and Therapeutic Potential of Combination Therapy."

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