Hundreds of years ago Viking warriors from Scandinavia used herbal concoctions to improve their physical performance on the battlefield. One of these popular “adaptogen” herbs was called rhodiola rosea and is still used as a cognitive and physical performance enhancer today, but is it as effective as our ancestors believed?
Rhodiola rosea is popular in traditional Chinese medicine as well as Scandinavia and parts of modern day Russia. It is considered the most popular adaptogen behind panax ginseng and research suggests it can significantly reduce feelings of fatigue . By reducing symptoms of fatigue, rhodiola also improves cognitive performance  and can help to enhance happiness and general wellbeing .
The rhodiola rosea supplements typically are standardized for compounds called rosavins and salidroside, which are the psychoactive ingredients. Interestingly, rhodiola rosea has benefits at different doses depending on your needs and desires.
Also Known As
Rosavin, Rosenroot, Rhodiola Rhizome, Golden Root, Arctic Root, Rhidola
History of Rhodiola Rosea
The plant traditionally grows in Russia and northern Europe at altitudes of 1000 – 5000 meters. This is where the plant was first used and then spread to many cultures in Asia and Europe . While there is no conclusive evidence, many speculate that Vikings from Scandinavia used rhodiola rosea to treat fatigue and preserve physical vitality .
Once it reached China, the traditional Chinese medicine experts incorporated it under the name “hong jing tian” and considered 3 – 6 grams of the root as a good daily recommendation . Since then, cultures have found the same plant on regions of England, Scotland, Ireland, and even in North America.
Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea
There is evidence to suggest that rhodiola rosea supports longevity. The rhodiola rosea longevity research is not conclusive, but nematode studies show significant reductions in death with a potential life enhancement of 24% . If the average life expectancy of an American is around 79 years, a 24% boost would extend life to age 98 .
Rhodiola Rosea for Stress
Stress comes in various forms, but the physical stress that rhodiola can help to combat is not the same kind one experiences with work-life balance and relationship turmoil.
The physical stress studied through rhodiola rosea is related to cold temperatures, high altitude, weakened immune system, and lack of sleep. One of the main benefits of using rhodiola rosea is the ability to reduce fatigue after a lack of sleep.
One meta-analysis study (which looks at many studies and forms an opinion based on all of them), showed rhodiola could increase mental performance under periods of stress . Another study added that rhodiola improved mood under stress as well . The reduction in stress can manifest in higher mental performance (such as memory or learning). For example, a student examination study showed 8.4% higher exam scores when supplementing with rhodiola .
Rhodiola Rosea for Fatigue
The rhodiola rosea benefits for fatigue are one of the primary reasons people use this adaptogenic herb. Rhodiola can help people who are either sleep deprived or have bad quality sleep to improve their cognitive function while they are in that mental state.
Fatigue can impact even the best of us in both a physical and mental sense. Physical fatigue can be related to exertion through exercise or other stressors while mental fatigue may often be related to something altogether different. One of the main benefits of rhodiola rosea is as an anti-fatigue agent.
Rhodiola Rosea for Immune Health
While rhodiola rosea might not be the only drug that can aid in immune health, it is a powerful tool for many people. Inflammation and poor immune health often leads to sickness, which can get in the way of performance and the work that you need to do.
Rhodiola Rosea for Depression
Rhodiola rosea can also help treat symptoms of depression. One analysis saw a reduction in depression symptoms at a rate of 30-35% all the way to 50% in some patients .
How Does Rhodiola Rosea Work?
Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that has psychoactive compounds, which impact brain chemistry and health. The primary compounds are rosavins and salidroside, which are usually standardized in rhodiola rosea supplements so that you ensure a high enough dosage.
Other mechanisms include altering enzymes and stress responses within the brain. Rhodiola is said to increase “nuclear translocation of DAF-16”, which is a common human response to stress . This is primarily how the body fights stress and aging with rhodiola rosea.
Side Effects of Rhodiola Rosea
While herbs are not free from side effects, rhodiola rosea is relatively safe compared to other nootropics. The side effects of rhodiola rosea are not only well researched by ancient and modern scientific literature, but they are also rare and mild according to community anecdotes.
The human trials of rhodiola rosea have noticed that there are no side effects of rhodiola rosea that are clinically relevant .
In theory, rhodiola rosea can interact with enzymes that can change prescription drug metabolism (specifically CYP3A4 if you know how to cross reference). Again, this is rare, but if you have many prescription drugs it may be worth speaking to a doctor about this adaptogen.
Rhodiola Rosea Dosage
The rhodiola rosea dosage is going to depend on your needs and desires. Assuming you have 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside, you should take doses anywhere from 50 – 650 mg.
The dosage of 50 mg is a daily dose that is effective for preventing against symptoms of fatigue. Using a higher dose upwards of 600 – 700 mg is for an acute stressor. Interestingly, rhodiola rosea has a bell-curve response, which means higher doses than 6-700 mg will be less effective.
How and Where to Buy Rhodiola Rosea
Despite the relative safety of herbal supplements compared to many of the synthetic research chemicals, there are concerns to be aware of. Namely, rhodiola rosea studies in the United Kingdom showed that 23% of the rhodiola rosea supplements for sale (39 in total) had no active rosavins (the cause of rhodiola benefits) . Even worse, of the products that did have rosavins, 80% of them had lower levels than traditional references.
While this is not a safety concern, it is definitely a sign that you can buy rhodiola rosea that seems to be legitimate from a well-respected vendor that has none of the main psychoactive ingredient. You may be able to buy rhodiola at GNC or other local brick and mortar locations, but it is probably best for you to instead look on the internet.
The rhodiola for sale online will have reviews and more information about the standard extracts and percentages. This is why we recommend going with a trusted vendor that has in-house testing facilities to ensure the quality of the product. Pure Nootropics rhodiola rosea is tested using various methods to ensure rosavin content that is optimal.
We recommend Pure Nootropics for rhodiola as they are a a reliable vendor of nootropics.
Selected Community Experiences
“I was shocked (yeah, I was truthfully shocked!) how immensely powerful this herb felt like after having a go at a full gram. What it essentially does is obliterate fatigue, mind and body, enhances endurance, significantly heightens concentration, mood and empathy (not MDMA-like obviously), and best of all, that was at the expense of having zero side effects.”  – Weevie
“I usually struggle with word recall and therefore have a problem expressing myself but with Rhodiola that completely dissipates.”  – blackkzeus
Author's Thoughts on Rhodiola Rosea
When I have used rhodiola in the past, it was usually lower doses and confounded in effects with caffeine. I started to take rhodiola occasionally by itself and saw some cognitive changes (acute), but not as strong as caffeine.
However, I did notice rhodiola rosea for caffeine cycling is really powerful. The adaptogen can reduce the amount of irritability and poor mood that I experienced when trying to cycle off caffeine for a few days.
In speaking with friends, I realize the effects vary wildly depending on personal biochemistry. I’d say I’m not the best candidate for rhodiola, but there are some people I know who swear by it as more effective than certain prescription drugs like modafinil.
Given it is a natural herb in supplement form, you probably can’t go wrong. Worth trying to see if you are one of the lucky responders.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Contributor
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