Research Library

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Rhodioa Rosea is a small plant with yellow flowers that grows in the harsh artic regions of Europe and Asia. Its first recorded medical usage dates back to 77 C.E. in De Materia Medica. It is often called “golden root” because of its color or “roseroot” because of the rose-like fragrance it gives off when it is cut. Rhodiola has been used it traditional medicine for improving mood, enhancing energy, and stress relief. This adaptogenic herb and has the ability to increase its resistance against chemical, biological and physical stressors.*

Energy and Focus

Rhodiola has been studied extensively for its anti-fatigue abilities. In 2000, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study was published examining the effect of rhodiola on students during a stressful examination period. This test found rhodiola to improve mental fatigue and neuro-motoric tests, however, it didn’t prove to be effective in other tests, such as a correction of text test and a neuro-muscular tapping test. A more recent study published in 2009 determined rhodiola helped individuals with stress-related fatigue. They showed better results than the placebo group in tests administered to determine fatigue and ability to concentrate.

Although most tests have showed positive or mixed results, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on military cadets aged 19 – 21 didn’t find a significant difference in the effect or rhodiola vs placebo in mental ability tests; however, it did show a significant improvement in the mood and feelings of well-being for the cadets taking rhodiola.

A recent study published in the Journal of Sport and Health science tested the effects of Rhodiola on a group of 26 healthy young men. They performed tests to determine whether the herb would affect reaction time and endurance. During psychomotor testing, the rhodiola group performed superior to placebo in reaction time and total response time. This study did not show any improvement in endurance for the men taking rhodiola.

One of the most encouraging clinical studies was performed on 56 young, healthy physicians. This 6-week test used a “Fatigue Index” test to determine the overall level of mental fatigue, involving complex perceptive and cognitive cerebral functions, such as associative thinking, short-term memory, calculation and ability of concentration, and speed of audio-visual perception. Physicians were tested before and after night duty. The doctors showed better scores during the time-period when they were taking rhodiola than they did during the time period they were taking placebo (this was a crossover study).

  1. 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.

    Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, Mironova IA, Neumoin VV., Phytomedicine, 2000

  2. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue.

    Olsson EM, von Schéele B, Panossian AG., Planta medica, 2009

  3. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work.

    Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, Vol'skij VB, Korovin YP, Khristich MP, Roslyakova NA, Wikman G., Phytomedicine, 2003

  4. Effects of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on mental performance, physical capacity, and oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men

    Jówkoa E, Sadowskib J, Długołęckaa B, Gierczukb D, Opaszowskic B, Cieślińskib I., Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2016

  5. 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.

    Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, Gabrielian E, Wikman G, Wagner H., Phytomedicine, 2000

Stress and Mood

60 people suffering from stress-related fatigue volunteered to participate in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The subjects were given 576mg of rhodiola or a placebo for 28 days. The test showed that rhodiola lowered cortisol levels, high cortisol levels are a significant marker of stress.

A 2007 clinical trial recruited volunteers suffering from mild to moderate depression. This 6-week trial on 89 subjects found that the group receiving rhodiola experienced improvements in mood and emotional stability, along with less insomnia and somatization, but rhodiola did not improve self-esteem.

  1. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

    Darbinyan V, Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, Malmström C, Panossian A., Nordic journal of psychiatry, 2007

  2. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue.

    Olsson EM, von Schéele B, Panossian AG., Planta medica, 2009

Endurance and Recovery

Rhodiola has been studied recently for its benefits in sports nutrition. A 4-week study in 2004 found some mixed results. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study found improvements in the VO2 max for the rhodiola group compared to placebo; however, it found no changes in muscle strength, speed of limb movement, reaction time, and attention.

Another study in 2004 found positive results for rhodiola as an anti-inflammatory after exercise. This study put 36 untrained, healthy volunteers through exhausting physical exercise tests carried out on a computer-aided bicycle ergometer. The group being given rhodiola showed lowered levels of c-reactive protein and creatine kinase after 5 days of exercise, whereas the placebo group experienced higher levels of the inflammatory markers. These results are encouraging towards rhodiola improving recovery rate.

  1. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance.

    De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P., International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 2004

  2. Extract of Rhodiola rosea radix reduces the level of C-reactive protein and creatinine kinase in the blood.

    Abidov M, Grachev S, Seifulla RD, Ziegenfuss TN., Bulletin of experimental biology and medicine, 2004