Rhodiola rosea is from a class of herbs known as "adaptogens" due to their ability to help the human body increase resistance to a variety of chemical, biological, and physical stressors. Rhodiola rosea helps you adapt to both stress and fatigue. Much of the initial research regarding rhodiola rosea was carried out in Russia, as it was readily used medicinally to fight fatigue starting in 1969. And in 2001 Denmark officially classified the SHR-5 extract from rhodiola rosea as an herbal medicinal product.
Rhodiola rosea can help you function better while under stressful conditions. This is different from most other strategies. It doesn't directly help you fight stress; it helps you to be better when stressed.
This is very important because stress leads to a decrease in performance. Because you're stressed you have a limited capacity for dealing with your poor performance. The end result is that you get more stressed. It's a vicious cycle. Rhodiola rosea will help stop that cycle and even help prevent overtraining.
Let's look at a clinical trial from Russia involving rhodiola rosea. In this study, two different dosages were given to 121 Russian cadets. Two different dosages of rhodiola rosea (the SHR-5 extract) were given to the men prior to them undergoing a series of mentally challenging stress tests. Regardless of the dose given (375mg vs. 555mg SHR-5), taking the rhodiola rosea supplement significantly increased the cadet's Anti-Fatigue Index score compared to those that took the placebo.
An added benefit to rhodiola rosea supplementation is that its effects can sometimes be seen within 30 minutes of taking it. This is a very practical benefit as it can be used at a moment's notice.
Be careful when choosing a rhodiola supplement. Potency and purity can really vary, with some extracts containing only 1% to 3% total rosavins. The better ones, if you're lucky, might contain 9% or 10%.
- Kelly GS. Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. Alternative medicine review 2001;6:293-302.
- Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine 2003;10:95-105.
- Panossian A, Wagner H. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytotherapy Research 2005;19:819-838.