Parts used medicinally: Root.
What is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola has a widespread reputation for relieving mental fatigue and stress, enhancing physical performance and strengthening mood and memory. Its adaptogenic action has been used since 77CE and by the Vikings and is today recognised and registered in Europe as a tonic and stimulant for optimal mental and cognitive activity.
The first recorded use of Rhodiola was by the Greek physician Dioscorides in 77 CE in De Materia Medica and it is also reported to have been used by the Vikings to enhance physical strength and endurance. It appeared in scientific literature in 1725 and was largely used in Russia and Scandinavia where today, the herb is officially recognised and registered as a tonic and stimulant to increase memory, attention span and productivity. Even the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) allows rhodiola treatment to carry the functional claim ‘contributes to optimal mental and cognitive activity’. Rhodiola has undergone extensive scientific research in both animal and human clinical trials with positive medicinal findings.
Rhodiola is classified as an adaptogen which is a class of herbs that increase the body's resilience to physical, emotional, mental and environmental stressors. Fascinatingly, most adaptogens grow in environmentally stressful places, and Rhodiola is no exception, growing in cold climates and high altitudes. Plants growing in these challenging places have to produce protective phytochemicals to stay alive which is what gives them their adaptogenic effects in humans.
Rhodiola is a member of the Crasssulaceae family and grows in arctic and mountain regions throughout Europe, Asia and America. The leaves are fleshy, the flowers are yellow and the root is red in the centre and has a rose-like fragrance which is where its common name ‘Roseroot’ derived. It is the root which is used as a medicine in western and eastern herbal medicine.
Both eastern and westernal herbalists use this plant medicinally and mostly for relieving mental fatigue and stress, enhancing physical performance and strengthening mood and memory.
Rhodiola has been used to stimulate the central nervous system and treat depression and anxiety. Studies have demonstrated its ability to induce a general state of wellbeing and while not quite effective as sertraline, Rhodiola still significantly reduced anxiety and depression in patients and with much fewer side effects making it a better benefit to risk ratio option.
One of the mechanisms of action of Rhodiola is partly attributed to the herbs ability to influence levels of brain neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The effect here is cognitive function, attention, memory and learning are enhanced. On memory, studies have shown it improves attention, speed and accuracy in stressful cognitive tasks on healthy adults. Furthermore studies on doctors on night duty taking rhodiola has also shown an overall improvement in capacity for work.
Rhodiola is also used by adults and athletes to improve physical performance, strength and endurance. The herb reduces skeletal muscle damage after strenuous exercise, increases time taken to fatigue and increases other measures of ergogenic function.
Ways to Use Rhodiola at Home?
- Most commonly taken as capsules of powdered root, tablet or tincture (alcoholic extract)
- You can also make the root (fresh or dried) into a tea - simmer for 10-15 minutes with the lid on.
Avoid use with bipolar disease.
No drug interactions have been reported and safety in pregnancy and lactation has not been established.
Did You Know?
Used in Siberia by shamans to help them endure all-night rituals, it is said that people who drink the tea of Rhodiola will live to be a hundred.
If you are pregnant/breastfeeding or on drug medication, be sure to consult with a professional before trying these remedies.