All over the planet, countless plants and herbs with medicinal properties grow naturally. Scientists have classified over 300,000 different species of plants, and new ones are still being discovered all the time1.
Rhodiola rosea is an amazing plant with a number of medicinal and nootropic properties. It grows naturally all over the planet, in cold climates. From the mountains of North Carolina to the Alps in Europe, and from the mountains of Central Asia to the Arctic, rhodiola rosea can be found growing and thriving.
This plant has a long history of use in traditional Russian, Scandinavian, and Chinese medicine. In recent years, rhodiola rosea has been getting popular in the nootropic and biohacking communities.
Users are reporting that it improves mood, focus, and energy, while reducing stress and anxiety. And there is plenty of science to back up those claims.
We’ll get into all these benefits shortly. First, let’s take a look at what exactly rhodiola rosea is.
What Is Rhodiola Rosea?
Rhodiola rosea is an herb in the Crassulaceae family of plants. It grows naturally all over the world in cold climates and at high altitudes2.
It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese, Russian, and Scandinavian medicine. Practitioners of these early forms of medicine recognized that this powerful plant has anti-fatigue and adaptogenic properties3.
More recently, rhodiola rosea has become popular as a dietary supplement. It’s users are reporting multiple health and nootropic benefits.
Unlike many other supplements, there is actually a good amount of scientific research to support some of the health claims that users are reporting.
Let’s look at some of the health and nootropic benefits of rhodiola rosea.
Benefits Of Rhodiola Rosea
Improved Mood And Well-Being
One of the most notable benefits that people are reporting from rhodiola rosea is improved mood. Users are saying that it makes them feel less depressed and more energetic and motivated.
A study done on depressed patients showed that taking a rhodiola rosea extract for 6 weeks significantly reduced or eliminated most of their symptoms4. And it did this without causing any of the side-effects that standard anti-depressants are known for.
Several other studies done on rhodiola rosea have shown that it improves overall sense of well-being567. These studies looked at the effects that rhodiola rosea has on stress. They all showed that it reduces the symptoms of stress, and improves overall sense of well-being.
Reduced Fatigue and Improved Physical Performance
Another major benefit of rhodiola rosea is its ability to reduce fatigue and improve physical performance. Studies show that it is effective at reducing both mental and physical fatigue.
A large study that examined the data from 11 previous well-designed studies (meta-analysis) showed that rhodiola rosea had beneficial effects on mental performance, physical performance, and several mental health conditions8.
A study done on 14 trained athletes showed that taking rhodiola rosea for 4 weeks may improve physical performance9. Researchers found that supplementing with rhodiola rosea every day reduced lactate levels and markers of skeletal muscle damage after a strenuous workout session.
Improved Cognitive Performance
Rhodiola rosea seems to have several nootropic benefits. Users report an overall increase in cognitive performance. This seems to be especially true when taken during times of stress.
Once again, there’s plenty of science to back up these claims. One study done on doctors working overnights showed that the doctors that took rhodiola rosea had less fatigue and better cognitive performance than the ones that didn’t take it10.
Another study done on 161 military cadets working at night showed that taking rhodiola rosea decreased fatigue, improved mental performance, and increased overall sense of well-being7.
A lot of rhodiola rosea users are reporting that it causes a significant reduction in anxiety. These reports are coming from people that have diagnosed anxiety disorders as well as from people that don’t.
There hasn’t been a lot of research done yet to explore the link between rhodiola rosea and anxiety reduction. It is still unknown exactly how effective it is, what the optimal dosage is, or how long it takes to start working.
We were only able to find one study that look specifically at the anti-anxiety effects of rhodiola rosea. It’s a small study, but the results are promising.
In this study, 10 participants with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) were given 340 mg of rhodiola rosea extract every day for 10 weeks. After the 10 weeks, the researchers found that the participants that had been given the extract had significantly less symptoms of GAD11.
Other Rhodiola Rosea Benefits
The list of rhodiola rosea benefits that people are reporting goes on and on. The benefits mentioned above are the ones that have been studied the most by researchers. Here’s a list of all the different rhodiola rosea benefits:
- Improved Mood
- Decreased Anxiety
- Improved Physical Performance
- Reduced Stress
- Improved Sense of Well-Being
- Increased Energy
- Reduced Fatigue
- Reduced Symptoms Of Mood Disorders
- Reduced Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
- Improved Athletic Performance
- Improved Sleep
- Improved Overall Cognitive Performance
Rhodiola Rosea Side Effects/Warnings
For most people, rhodiola rosea has very few side effects, or none at all. In all the studies we looked at, no serious side effects were reported. The side effects that were reported were mild and uncommon.
Side effects could include dry mouth, nausea, upset stomach, headache, insomnia, and weight loss. A few users have reported slight changes in blood pressure. However, a study that looked at some of the physical effects of rhodiola rosea found that it does not influence blood pressure12.
You should probably not use rhodiola rosea if you are taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). Although we could not find any reports of adverse effects, this combination could potentially lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome, as rhodiola rosea is known to increase serotonin levels13.
As always, we recommend you speak with a licensed healthcare professional before making any dietary, behavioral, or medical changes. Most physicians in the United States have probably not heard of rhodiola rosea, though. You may have to educate them on what it is.
Rhodiola Rosea Dosage
As rhodiola rosea is a plant, different brands will have different concentrations of the active ingredient. You want to use one that has at least 1% salidroside, bare minimum. Ideally, you want to use one that has 3% salidroside.
When taken daily to prevent fatigue, dosages as low as 50 milligrams a day may be effective. However, most of the studies that we looked at used much higher dosages.
In the studies that reported the greatest benefits to mood, anxiety, physical performance, and cognition, dosages anywhere from 300-800 milligrams per day were used. No additional benefits seem to come from taking more than 1,000 mg a day.
Most rhodiola rosea supplements come in 500 mg capsules. Again, you want to use one that ideally has 3% salidroside. If you are using 500 mg capsules, taking one every day may be enough to experience the benefits of this amazing herb. If after a few weeks you still haven’t noticed the desired effects, you may want to consider an increasing to one capsule, twice a day.
It shouldn’t matter if you take rhodiola rosea with or without food. It may absorb a little better if taken on an empty stomach. If you experience nausea and upset stomach after taking it on an empty stomach, taking it with a small meal may reduce or eliminate these side effects.
Rhodiola rosea is an amazing herb with a long history, a ton of benefits, few side effects, and plenty of research to back it up.
It can be used by itself, or as part of a stack. Nootropic users from around the world are adding rhodiola rosea to their stacks for its nootropic benefits, its ability to improve mood and reduce anxiety, and its ability to boost physical performance.
If you’re not reaping the benefits of this versatile herb, you could be missing out. It has a ton of benefits, few side effects, and it’s relatively inexpensive.
Speaking of adaptogenic herbs with tons of benefits, you might also be interested in learning about ashwagandha. It’s another plant with a ton of benefits, few side effects, and plenty of science to back it up.
2Stace, C. (2010). New flora of the British isles (3rd ed.). Cambridge, U.K.:Cambridge University Press. p. 138. ISBN 9780521707725.
3Azizov, A., & Seifulla, R. (1998). The effect of elton, leveton, fitoton, and adapton on the work capacity of experiemental animals. Eksperimental’naia I klinicheskaia farmakologiia, 61(3):61-3.
4Darbinyan, V., Aslanyan, G., Amroyan, E., Gabrielyan, E., Malmstrom, C., & Panossian, A. (2007). Clinical trial of rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nord J Psychiatry, 61(5):343-8.
5Edwards, D., Heufelder, A., & Zimmermann, A. (2012). Therapeutic effects and safety of rhodiola rosea extract WS 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms – results of an open-label study. Phytother Res, 26(8):1220-5.
6Spasov, A., Wikman, G., Mandrikov, V., Mironova, I., & Nrumoin, V. (2000). A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine, 7(2):85-9.
7Shevtsov, V., Zholus, B., Shervarly, V., Korovin, Y., Khristich, M., Roslyakova, N., & Wilman, G. (2003). A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine, 10(2-3):95-105.
8Hung, S., Perry, R., & Ernst, E. (2011). The effectiveness and efficacy of rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine, 18(4):235-44.
9Parisi, A., Tranchita, E., Duranti, G., Ciminelli, E., Quaranta, F., Ceci, R., Cerulli, C., Borrione P., & Sabatini, S. (2010). Effects of chronic rohdiola rosea supplementation on sport performance and antioxidant capacity in trained male: preliminary results. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 50(1):57-63.
10Darbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., Panossian, A., Gabrielian, E., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (2000). Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue – a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine, 7(5):365-71.
11Bystritsky, A., Kerwin, L, & Feusner, J. (2008). A pilot study of rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). J Altern Complement Med, 14(2):175-80.
12Wing, S., Askew, E., Luetkemeier, M., Ryujin, D., Kamimori, G., & Grissom, C. (2003). Lack of effect of rhodiola or oxygenated water supplementation on hypoxemia and oxidative stress. Wilderness Environ Med, 14(1):9-16.
13Mannucci, C., Navarra, M., Calzavara, E., Caputi, A., & Calapai, G. (2012). Serotonin involvement in rhodiola rosea attenuation of nicotine withdrawal signs in rats. Phytomedicine, 19(12):1117-24.