Rhodiola Rosea is a popular arctic root that has been used by humans for centuries. Rhodiola is an adaptogen meaning that it plays a supporting role in adjusting to stress factors(physical, chemical and biological). According to legend Vikings used Rhodiola for strength on the battlefield, Traditional Chinese Medicine prescribed it for general well being, and Soviet scientists experimented with it as a potential performance enhancing drug during the Cold War. Rhodiola has been shown to exhibit neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and life-span increasing effects. As a result, Rhodiola has become a popular supplement for those looking to enhance cognitive, physical, and life-extending properties.
Rhodiola Rosea has grown in popularity as a nootropic because of it’s ability to resist fatigue, enhance concentration and improve mood. For individuals in high stress situations this calming alertness and focus improves performance on cognitive tests. Low dose treatment with Rhodiola Rosea was done on 56 young healthy physicians. Statistically significant improvements were observed in tests measuring perceptive and cognitive cerebral functions including associative thinking, short term memory, ability to calculate and concentrate and speed of audio visual perception. A separate study on students with a low dose regimen of Rhodiola Rosea supplementation during stressful examination period saw improvements in mental fatigue and neuro-motoric tests A study on cadets testing for their capacity to work against fatigue and stress after a single dose of Rhodiola Rosea supplementation found pronounced anti-fatigue effects in the cadets. The anti-fatigue index measured values like pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure. And lastly, a study was conducted on male and female participants between the ages of 18-70 who met the criteria according to DMS-IV for depression. At the end of the study it was concluded that supplementation with Rhodiola Rosea showed anti-depressive potency in patients with mild to moderate depression
Exercise Performance Enhancer
As mentioned earlier, Soviet scientists experimented on Cold War era athletes with this herb as a potential performance enhancer. Rhodiola has cardioprotective effects that can impact endurance, work capacity and recovery. A 4 week study of 14 male athletes supplementing with Rhodiola Rosea and performing cardio-pulmonary exhaustion tests. Blood lactate and creatine kinase levels were significantly lower after the exercise sessions in the groups using Rhodiola. A separate study on the effects Rhodiola Rosea supplementation had on endurance exercise performance revealed a shorter time to completion of 6 mile time trial courses. A study involving 30 minute cycling trials at 70% VO2 max following Rhodiola Rosea administration found that RPE was significantly lower after supplementation and perceptions of mood and arousal were significantly higher in the Rhodiola Rosea supplemented groups.
Traditional Chinese medicine has proposed that Rhodiola may increase an organism’s resistance to stress and can extend longevity by because of it’s antioxidant properties. As an adaptogen Rhodiola has also been shown to be effective at lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Most interestingly in animal studies, Rhodiola Rosea has even been shown to increase the lifespan of organisms.
Rhodiola supplied every other day significantly increased the lifespan of fruit flies. Another study on nematodes revealed that Rhodiola could act to increase the maximum lifespan of nematodes and was able to increase stress resistance when the nematodes where exposed to different stress conditions. The mode of action appeared to be through the activation of a longevity gene.
Typical dosages range in studies from as low as 50 mg to as high as 680 mg daily. Rhodiola extract can take effect as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion and it’s effects last for an average of about 6 hours post ingestion. Rhodiola appears to work on a bell shaped curve where you get diminishing results after a certain dosage point. Studies have shown that Rhodiola can be effective when supplemented with at low doses for a long period of time or when used for a very short period of time at high doses. Cycling usage may be a wise option to help maintain the plants’ effectiveness as it is possible to build up a tolerance. One strategy can be to have cycles of 3-4 weeks using Rhodiola and 1 week off.