Rhodiola rosea is plant member of the Crassulaceae family that grows mostly in cold northern regions of the world in the continents of Asia, Europe, and North America. Referred to variously as Arctic root, golden root, Aaron’s rod, and rose root, this plant has long been part of ancient human medical practices, even being referenced by Dioscorides, a noted Roman physician in his work De Materia Medica, way back in 77 CE. It is called hong jing tian in traditional Chinese medicine where it is prescribed as an energy tonic both for the body and mind. It’s believed to boost the nervous system, fight off depression, improve immunity, increase energy levels, enhance memory and aids in weight loss. The herb is a highly potent adaptogen. Adaptogens are chemicals that enhances the body’s overall defense while optimizing body functions .
The recent surge in the popularity of Rhodiola rosea is primarily due to efforts both by proponents of alternative medicine and by multi-level marketers who have been peddling Rhodiola rosea as a multi-cure dietary supplement. However, the rising popularity of Rhodiola rosea in the United States also came at a price with some entities making unsubstantiated medical claims with their products. The claims were so outlandish that the FDA forcibly had a number of Rhodiola rosea products pulled from the market.
With so many claims about supposed curative powers of Rhodiola rosea, its actual proven abilities are somewhat muddled. Opportunistic distributors of Rhodiola rosea supplements were bold enough to claim that it can cure a wide range of medical conditions including cancer, the common cold, bacterial infections, influenza, and migraines. Such claims may not even be needed at all since some of its abilities are significant and are already proven by clinical studies done by reputable institutions.
Among the established properties of Rhodiola rosea are its abilities to stabilize mood, ease depression, relieve physical and mental fatigue, and its ability to enhance mental performance. People from Scandinavian countries have long been using Rhodiola rosea as a sort of anti-fatigue tonic to help them endure the long winter seasons and stave off cabin fever .
Clinical studies via proofreading tests showed that the Rhodiola Rosea significantly improved the ability to recall and concentration over a prolonged period. It enhances the electrical activity within the brain, thus enhancing mental energy and memory.
In another study, forty students were randomly offered a 50 mg dose of the herb’s extract or placebo twice a day in a 20-day period. Students who received the extract showcased improvements in mental performance, physical fitness, and overall well-being. Those same subjects also saw a dip in mental fatigue, improved sleeping patterns, mood stability, and increased motivation to study. Average test scores between students taking the nootropic and placebo were at 3.47 and 3.20 respectively .
One study took it a step further by testing the effects of Rhodiola rosea on healthy physicians on night duty. The physicians were observed on the areas of associative thinking, the ability to calculate, focus, concentration, perception. The group that was given a dose of Rhodiola rosea extract showed clinically significant improvements in the tests compared to the placebo group. What is even more interesting is that the physicians treated with Rhodiola rosea reported no side effects or experiencing any discomfort at all .
While this may sound exciting it should be noted that all these tests that suggests cognitive enhancing properties of Rhodiola rosea were done with the presence of stressors. There currently are no studies on Rhodiola rosea yet that tests whether its cognitive enhancing properties are only triggered in the presence of stressors. It must also be noted that there the extracts from the plant vary in composition from region to region, which means that the effects of Rhodiola rosea may also vary depending on the area from where it was gathered. There are also a few known side effects from Rhodiola rosea supplementation. These include upset stomach, hyper-salivation, restlessness, nausea, and sleeplessness.
In the event of a stressful event, taking in adaptogens creates a non-specific resistance that lets our body handle any stressful situation reasonably. It’s theorized that adaptogens function by enhancing the capability of cells to create and utilize cell fuel efficiently.
Rhodiola Rosea appearing to have a significant impact on the levels of central monoamine, it may also offer advantages and the primary adaptogen choice in illnesses characterized by an unbalanced monoamines in the central nervous system. This remains consistent with claims of improvement in schizophrenia and depression. It’s been suggested that research in areas such as chronic fatigue, seasonal affective disorder, fibromyalgia, and others have been observed.
Claims were also made indicating that the nootropic can treat asthenic conditions, physical and mental strain, and other viral-based illnesses. Two random and controlled clinical studies were done on the herb’s extract offer concrete evidence on its adaptogen properties  .
There are a number of other benefits observed from taking the nootropic. Its capable of regulating blood sugar levels protects the liver from toxins and improves hearing . The herb is also capable of breaking down fats and mobilizing lipids from the adipose tissue to the fat burning system to promote weight loss .
Rhodiola Rosea enhances thyroid function without triggering hyperthyroidism and delaying the aging process. It improves the adrenal gland reserves without any hypertrophy . For many years, the nootropic is shown to enhance erectile dysfunction/premature ejaculation while balancing prostatic fluid .
- It has proven anxiolytic and anti-fatigue properties.
- It has clinically backed studies supporting its cognitive enhancing abilities.
- It is widely available and relatively cheap.
- It has a lot of other potential medical application.
- It can complement your existing nootropic stack.
- Its chemical composition is not consistent.
- Its cognitive enhancing effect may not work without stressors.
- It has its own set of unpleasant side effects.
Rhodiola rosea is generally safe and well-tolerated. The daily recommended dosage for Rhodiola rosea is between 100 to 600mg. It is best to consult your healthcare professional before starting with supplementation.