benefits of rhodiola

14 Ways Rhodiola Can Benefit Your Health

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Adrenal, Anxiety, Depression, Mood, Stress Reduction, Weight Loss Leave a Comment

Rhodiola rosea is an herb known for increasing energy, improving mental and physical stamina, and for building resilience to stress.  

While Rhodiola may be one of those herbs that you may not have heard of — yet. But it is a versatile and powerful tool in improving hormonal health.

From helping the body adapt to stress via adrenal support to supporting healthy immunity, it seems like Rhodiola can almost do anything. It's a fantastic adaptogen that can people turn to for several reasons:

  1. Boost Energy
  2. Reduce Anxiety
  3. Help With Depression
  4. Premature Ovarian Failure
  5. Support Adrenal Function
  6. Improve Brain Health
  7. Help with ADHD
  8. Weight Loss
  9. Stress Management
  10. Increase Athletic Performance
  11. Treat Diabetes
  12. Fight Cancer
  13. Reduce Blood Pressure
  14. Increase Immunity

Let's explore Rhodiola's many benefits and discuss how women use it for hormonal support, general health, and more. 

What Is Rhodiola?

Rhodiola is an herb native to the Arctic regions of the world. The roots of this plant function as an adaptogen, which means they help the body to adapt to stress. Prehistoric Siberians, Ancient Greeks, and Chinese Emperors have sung its praises for thousands of years. 

Its proper name is Rhodiola rosea, but it's also known as arctic root, golden root, king's crown, or rose root.

As early as 77 AD, Rhodiola started showing up in medical texts. The earliest practitioners of medicine have traditionally turned to Rhodiola to treat colds, flu, enhance energy, extend lifespan, and, more recently, help with depression. 

What Are The Benefits Of Rhodiola?

Rhodiola rosea can help enhance brain function, increase physical stamina, improve energy, increase exercise performance, may decrease symptoms of depression, and can also improve blood sugar.

The benefits of Rhodiola are so numerous that it's quite an exhaustive list. Here I've outlined 13 of the most popular health benefits of Rhodiola.

Does Rhodiola Give You Energy?

One of the primary uses of Rhodiola is to fight fatigue. There have been several clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of this herb to help ward off the effects of fatigue.

In fact, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study, Rhodiola was found to decrease fatigue, increase mental performance, and decrease cortisol in patients with burnout and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Rhodiola has a reputation for quickly increasing energy levels as well. In one clinical trial, participants noticed significant changes after taking Rhodiola for just one week. Energy continued to increase, and fatigue continued to decrease after eight weeks as well.

Does Rhodiola Help With Anxiety?

Rhodiola could also be used to address anxiety. In one small study, participants with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) significantly decreased their anxiety symptoms. 

Participants showed improvement in symptoms including:

  • Tension
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Muscle twitch
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Fidgeting
  • Loss of libido

In another study, patients reported the same significant mitigation of their anxiety symptoms after taking Rhodiola for just 14 days. Patients reported these changes gradually over the course of two weeks.

Rhodiola For Depression

Because Rhodiola is generally well tolerated and is known to produce little to no side effects, people often turn to it as part of a complete program to address depression.

In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that Rhodiola may be useful for reducing depression symptoms. In this study, researchers compared Rhodiola to Zoloft®. While Rhodiola's effects weren't as strong as the effects of Zoloft, participants experienced fewer uncomfortable side effects. 

It's believed that Rhodiola works to treat depression by inhibiting monoamine oxidases (MAO). In another study involving patients with mild to moderate depression, Rhodiola reduced participants' depressive symptoms and insomnia. In higher doses, it even boosted participants' self-esteem over six weeks. 

If you’re currently using medications to manage your anxiety or depression, it is important to speak with your prescriber before adding Rhodiola into your routine.

Rhodiola And Premature Ovarian Failure

Premature Ovarian Failure or Primary Ovarian Insufficiecy (POI) is a condition in which women lose their fertility and period before age 40. 

Researchers gave Rhodiola to 40 study participants who had experienced premature ovarian failure. At the end of the study, 25 women had regained their period, and 11 were pregnant.

While Rhodiola is not part of the conventional standard of care for fertility treatment, this study helps demonstrate why many traditional herbalists have recommended Rhodiola for fertility.

Rhodiola For Adrenal Support

We've already discussed how Rhodiola could help manage cortisol levels. Regulating cortisol is a necessary step toward restoring proper adrenal function.

When your body perceives that it's under stress, your adrenals start firing off cortisol, insulin resistance rises, and all kinds of complications ensue.

Rhodiola may help mitigate these consequences. I've outlined several others in this article that could help as well.

This is why you’ll find Rhodiola in our Adrenal Support supplement formulation. This is our morning energy support formula that helps your body bring cortisol into balance so your hormones can thrive.

Rhodiola for Brain Function

Rhodiola has been touted for its ability to enhance mental stamina and performance. It may even help alleviate brain fog!

In a double-blind study of physicians working night shifts were given either a placebo or 170 mg of Rhodiola daily for two weeks. What they found was that Rhodiola reduced mental fatigue and improved work performance by 20% when compared to placebo. 

A 2012 study found that after 4 weeks of taking 400 mg of Rhodiola rosea daily participants enjoyed improvement in their fatigue, stress, and anxiety.

Rhodiola and ADHD 

Since people report that their moods have improved since adding Rhodiola to their regimen, researchers have begun evaluating it to enhance and protect brain health.

Scientists are exploring its potential as a non-pharmacological treatment option for ADHD

In one double-blind, placebo trial  students were given Rhodiola supplements for 20 days during an exam period. They found that they experienced significantly improved physical fitness, a reduction in mental fatigue and sleep. They also observed that exam scores were 8% higher when compared with the placebo group.

A review of the available data on Rhodiola Rosea furthermore bolstered these claims, showing it may positively impact learning and memory function.

Some are even hopeful that it could be used as part of a treatment protocol for Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases

Does Rhodiola Help With Weight Loss?

Diet and exercise are fundamentals in maintaining a healthy weight. Additionally, we understand that imbalances in cortisol, thyroid estrogen, insulin and other hormones can also be involved in weight gain or inability to lose weight.

In addition to helping with stress, anxiety, and depression, people have credited Rhodiola for their weight loss. In one study, Rhodiola was combined with other botanicals to reduce visceral fat effectively. 

Is Rhodiola Good For Stress?

There are many studies that have demonstrated the effect of Rhodiola on reducing stress, improving fatigue, and helping the body manage anxiety.

As you may imagine, Rhodiola could also be a powerful approach to chronic stress. 

Some of the physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia

Some of the emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Moodiness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Avoidance of social situations

As this review suggests, Rhodiola serves a potentially unique role in the approach to stress. Most traditional pharmaceuticals treat either the physical or emotional symptoms of stress. Rhodiola seems to help with both.

Rhodiola's Effect On Athletic Performance

In two separate studies of its effect on endurance training, researchers demonstrated that it may improve exercise capacity. 

The studies noted that participants who took Rhodiola had an altered perception of the difficulty of the exercise. This could be how the herb helped to increase performance.

This is yet another reason people have been turning to Rhodiola—its potential to enhance athletic performance. 

Can Rhodiola Help Treat Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs either when the body is unable to make sufficient insulin or the cells do not respond to insulin as they should. The result is elevated blood sugar.

Rhodiola's benefits may also extend to blood sugar regulation. The herb has been shown in studies to lower blood sugar in diabetic rats. We need more human clinical trials to understand its utility in treating diabetes.

Furthermore, some people with diabetes experience a phenomenon known as hyperalgesia — which means they experience increased pain sensitivity. In one study, Rhodiola demonstrated antihyperalgesic effects, showing promise for addressing this debilitating symptom of diabetes.

Rhodiola's Cancer-Fighting Properties

Believe it or not, cancer researchers have begun looking into Rhodiola as an adjunct cancer therapy. 

In three separate studies, researchers demonstrated that the compounds in Rhodiola prevented the growth of breast cancer, colon cancer, and bladder cancer cells. These are test-tube studies, but they show promise for Rhodiola as a potential adjunct cancer treatment and further research may point to Rhodiola as an treatment in cancer. More research is needed to understand how to effective it is.

If you’re currently undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to speak with your doctor before adding Rhodiola or any supplement to your regimen.

Rhodiola For Blood Pressure

Rhodiola has been used as a tool to lower blood pressure for thousands of years. It is regarded in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an herb for treating aging-related diseases, including high blood pressure.

More recent studies have shown that Rhodiola may lower blood pressure as well.

Rhodiola Can Support Healthy Immunity

A final and critical way Rhodiola could help out our bodies is by boosting our immune system. 

Studies have shown that Rhodiola may have both antibacterial and anti-viral properties. This is precisely why traditional healers have been using it for thousands of years to fight colds. 

Rhodiola Side Effects And Precautions

One thing remains constant in the literature regarding Rhodiola. It is well-tolerated and lacks adverse effects when interacting with other medications. Rhodiola generally does not interact with other drugs, and clinical trials have not uncovered concerning adverse effects. 

The most commonly reported side effects are dizziness and dry mouth.

Some cautions to consider:

  • Since Rhodiola may lower blood pressure, it's not recommended for anyone who has already low blood pressure. If you're taking medication to lower your blood pressure, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking Rhodiola. 
  • Since it could lower blood sugar, it could cause blood sugar to drop too low in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia.
  • When combined with other depression medications, Rhodiola may cause drowsiness.
  • Some studies have shown it's safe to take while nursing, but always consult your provider before taking anything while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Rhodiola is not recommended in combination with Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
  • It is not advised to take Rhodiola if you have a history of bipolar disorder.

The Different Forms Of Rhodiola

You can take Rhodiola in a few different ways. Each has its own unique advantage. When shopping for a supplement, look for a standardized amount of 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides. 

Rhodiola Capsules

Capsules are the most widely available version of Rhodiola. These are the easiest to find and the easiest to take, since Rhodiola tends to have a bitter taste.

Rhodiola Tincture

Tinctures are a bit more traditional and have the added advantage of being absorbed 20-30 minutes quicker than medications in capsule form. Again, Rhodiola tinctures can be a bit harder to find and can have a unique taste that many find somewhat unpleasant.

Rhodiola Tea

If you're fortunate enough to find Rhodiola root, you can make a traditional tea by steeping the chopped root in boiled water for about 4 hours. There are some commercially available teas with Rhodiola in them as well. You can mask the medicinal taste with tea by adding mint, honey, or other ingredients that you like. But be warned, it isn’t going to be a mild flavor like a cup of chamomile.

Rhodiola Rosea Dosage

Dose recommendations for the various things Rhodiola could help with vary, of course. Please talk with your doctor before starting a course of any supplement.

Most people benefit from a dose of about 100 mg daily of standardized Rhodiola that contains 3% total rosavins and 1% salidroside. In some instances, your provider may recommend a higher dose.

Our Products That Contain Rhodiola

Proper adrenal function is the foundation for hormonal balance.

Our Adrenal Support formula contains the highest quality Rhodiola with ideal ratios of the key compounds found in Rhodiola. Thousands of women have used this product as part of a stress hormone management regimen and to gain energy they thought they could never have again.

Is Rhodiola An Adaptogenic Herb?

Rhodiola is an adaptogen. To be an adaptogen, it has to be generally well-tolerated and must help the body deal with the effects of stress. Rhodiola has many other health benefits as well — as we've explored here. 

There are several other adaptogenic herbs that work in other ways to help with stress management, and here are some of my favorites.

Other Adaptogenic Herbs

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is another excellent adaptogen. I love it for its ability to help with anxiety and stress and improve thyroid function and support immunity. 

I have an entire article that I've devoted to Ashwagandha that you can check out.

Licorice root

Another incredible adaptogen I often recommend to patients is licorice root. 

Licorice root is great for supporting the adrenals and reducing stress and anxiety. It may also be used for calming an upset stomach and has been used for centuries to help ease respiratory distress.

Maca

A root vegetable from Peru, maca is an adaptogen that has additional benefits for reproductive health. Healers have used maca traditionally for centuries to increase libido and fertility.

Unlike the other adaptogenic roots, maca actually tastes good – kind of like butterscotch – so you can mix into oatmeal or a smoothie without needing to mask the flavor. 

Read more about Maca here.

Can You Take Rhodiola And Ashwagandha Together?

Two well studied adaptogens, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha, can be quite effective if taken together. 

Rhodiola tends to be more energizing, and Ashwagandha has a bit more calming effect. I purposely added both to my Adrenal Support formulation to help provide energy while promoting a sense of calm.

When their powers are combined, many people report:

  • Mental clarity and focus
  • Increased energy
  • Improved mood
  • Reduction in anxiety
  • Reduced depression
  • Improved libido
  • Enhanced athletic performance

These two herbs combined seem to complement each other in just the right ways to enhance the benefits of each.

There's a ton of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Rhodiola and ashwagandha, taken at therapeutic doses, is a powerful approach to ADHD as well.

Summary

Rhodiola is a traditional herb used for centuries and supported by science in its ability to enhance mental and physical stamina, reduce stress, improve energy, and strengthen the resilience of the body to anxiety and depression.

I hope this article has helped you understand the uses and benefits of this fantastic herb and how it may play a role in improving hormonal health.

I'd love to help you dig into your hormonal research further. If you’re looking where to start on your hormone journey, grab my hormone balancing starter kit (complete with recipes and tons of bonuses). Then we can nerd out on women's health together!

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.