Rhodiola rosea – Natural Support for Low Energy and Stress

by Dr. Alexander Rinehart, DC, MS, CCN, CNS

stress reliefIt’s the middle of the office day, you’re tired and looking at the clock, it’s 3pm.

You just want to go home, and make a healthy dinner for you and your spouse, but you still have two hours left to go.

Do you throw in the towel and call it a day? Or are you the type of person who gives their all, who doesn’t give up at the first sign of fatigue.

You may find yourself asking “what can I do about this persistent low energy level”? or “How do maintain clarity of mind for the rest of the day?”

Instead of getting that wired feeling that you have with caffeine, why not try out Rhodiola rosea?

Alternative therapies for fatigue, anxiety and depression have been steadily rising in popularity as Americans just are not getting the answers they are looking for with conventional healthcare.

It is now well established that current anti-depressant medications suffer from “major shortcomings  that include slow onset of action, poor efficacy, and unwanted side effects” (1).

Adaptogens are a group of plants that helps us to “adapt” to general stress in our environment no matter the direction of the dysfunction.

This means that if you are anxious, adaptogens will support a calming effect, if you are depressed, adaptogens may improve energy and mood.

Most importantly, adaptogens are considered naturally safe adjuncts to traditional medicine and offer support for a wide spectrum of activity in the body.

One of the most popular adaptogens that I use in my practice in combination with a few other adaptogenic herbs is Rhodiola rosea.

Rhodiola rosea is an Ayurvedic adaptogen plant that is most well-known for supporting mild depression symptoms and anxiety when compared to placebo (2; 3).

While it’s one of the most recommended herbs in my practice for stress-related fatigue, I came across some other potential uses in my personal review of the research.

Health Benefits of Rhodiola

  • Rhodiola is generally considered in the scientific review literature to be neuroprotective, cardioprotective, anti-fatigue, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-oxidant, anti-aging, immune stimulating, as well as well as an enhancer of brain frunction (3; 456789).
  • Rhodiola may support physical and mental performance, as well as certain mental health conditions (10; 1112).
  • It has been suggested to play an unclear role in supporting an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) (13).
  • Rhodiola may help prevent high altitude sickness (8)
  • May offer clinical utility for Parkinson’s patients and other neurodegenerative disorders (14).
  • It may also protect cells from damage during acute times of stress (5).

Healthy Actions of Rhodiola

Rhodiola may produce a stimulatory effect as quickly as 30 minutes following consumption, lasting as long as 4-6 hours, without typically causing any side effects (15).

Taking Rhodiola in late morning hours may help support the energy slump that you often feel at 3-5pm in the afternoon.

Anecdotally, a handful of my clients have experienced some initial night-time alertness and insomnia when first taking the herb, but the vast majority love the energy support that is easy on their gut, without having to turn to caffeine.

Researchers suspect Rhodiola works by supporting healthy cortisol levels, as well as interacting with specific defense proteins in the body (3) and it’s an herb I take on a wellness basis as I look to support long hours at the office while managing multiple side projects and home responsibilities.

Caffeine on the other hand will disrupt stress hormones.

As with most natural therapies, the research can be mixed, and some researchers are still hesitant to make therapeutic claims for Rhodiola (16). Meanwhile, others contend that adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola  “urgently require more research” for their potential efficacy in psychiatric disorders (17).

Rhodiola lacks interactions with drugs and has not been associated with adverse events (3) and research suggests that it may also be combined safely with conventional antidepressants to alleviate their side effects (18).

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

george May 3, 2012 at 5:44 am

I am prescriving to my pacients . It’s usefull and great adaptogen.

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Alexander Rinehart, MS, DC, CCN May 7, 2012 at 10:46 am

Thanks George, I typically use it to support health in addition to other lifestyle changes, do you use it in combination with other herbs?

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Anniyan July 26, 2013 at 6:42 am

As a RD and CPT, I am always looikng for an alternative to caffeinated beverages to achieve both a mental and physical advantage. Rhodiola has been used by Russian athletes for decades and many of the published studies come from them. As a long distance runner, this herb has provided an advantage for me. I take it upon arising in the AM yet I never thought of taking it later in the day to see how it would affect the mid-day slump. Thanks for this thought. Your article is thorough and concise. I’ll look forward to future posts.

Reply

Bonnie Roill May 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

As a RD and CPT, I am always looking for an alternative to caffeinated beverages to achieve both a mental and physical advantage. Rhodiola has been used by Russian athletes for decades and many of the published studies come from them. As a long distance runner, this herb has provided an advantage for me. I take it upon arising in the AM yet I never thought of taking it later in the day to see how it would affect the mid-day slump. Thanks for this thought. Your article is thorough and concise. I’ll look forward to future posts.

Reply

Alexander Rinehart, MS, DC, CCN May 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thanks Bonnie, I appreciate the added comments with regards to athletes, it’s nice to have safe options when we put our body through these stresses. Look forward to future comments, thanks for your insight.

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