Rhodiola, also called golden root, is an adaptogenic herb with some impressive health benefits. It's been used for many years in traditional Chinese medicine, especially to help the body and mind cope with daily stress.
It took longer for the health benefits of rhodiola to become known in the western part of the world, but it has now become a popular herbal supplement. Almost everyone can use stress relief, and adaptogens are particularly helpful at calming the nervous system and reducing stress.
Here's more about rhodiola, how it can benefit you, and any precautions you need to be aware of before taking it.
More About Adaptogens
Rhodiola belongs to a class of herbs known as adaptogens. Adaptogenic herbs are very unique because they don't have one specific action in the body. Instead, they help the body to cope better with stress and bring it back into balance.
How exactly adaptogens accomplish this is still unknown, but they are very beneficial for calming and nourishing your nervous system and recharging your adrenals.
One important thing to know about all adaptogenic herbs is that they work best when taken consistently over time. We would all love a quick fix to every problem, but herbs take their time to work with the body and naturally restore it to health.
What Is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola rosea is one of many Rhodiola species that are native to the arctic regions of Europe and Asia (which accounts for one of its other nicknames: arctic root). In its native habitat, rhodiola grows at high altitudes and in sandy soils. It's a perennial plant known as a 'stonecrop' and resembles ornamental sedum plants. (1)
Rhodiola also grows in North America and is considered native to eastern Maine and southern Vermont. It's been a vital part of many traditional medicine practices around the world, especially Chinese medicine.
The root of the plant has a pleasant, floral scent and is the part that's used medicinally. The major medicinal benefits of rhodiola include its anti-fatigue, heart protective, neuroprotective, and antidepressant properties. It's also been found to reduce cortisol levels. (2)
Because rhodiola has become such a popular supplement, it's now considered endangered in certain parts of the world. Several countries and states are actively working to protect it from being over-harvested in the wild.
If you want to try rhodiola root, look for a sustainably harvested option.
Health Benefits of Rhodiola
Helps Fight Stress
One of the main uses for rhodiola is to combat daily and/or chronic stress. Chronic stress can have a huge negative impact on your health, leading to adrenal fatigue and burnout.
Rhodiola root helps to calm and support your nervous system and keep cortisol levels balanced (cortisol is the stress hormone). It aids both the physical and emotional symptoms of stress such as fatigue, mental strain, reduced appetite, and trouble sleeping. (3)
Like other adaptogens, rhodiola doesn't just decrease certain symptoms. It actually helps your body respond and adapt to stress so that you feel better.
A unique study done in 2017 showed that rhodiola extract has great potential to help people recover from stress-induced burnout. Symptoms of burnout started to improve in participants in as little as one week and continued to improve until the end of the study. (4)
To cope with and recover from stress better, treat yourself to this Adrenal Love tea made with rhodiola and other adaptogenic herbs.
Potential Fatigue Fighter
Closely related to its ability to reduce stress, rhodiola can also help fight physical and mental fatigue.
Fatigue can be due to sleep deprivation, exercise, poor sleep, or chronic stress. Adaptogens typically help with stress-related fatigue as they help the body and adrenals to recover, but rhodiola may go beyond that.
One study found that rhodiola extract did have an anti-fatigue effect on those suffering from stress-related fatigue, but it also increased mental performance, especially concentration. (5)
A similar study done with rhodiola extract found that it significantly improved chronic fatigue symptoms in participants with no adverse side effects. (6)
May Improve Energy Levels and Exercise Performance
Even if you aren't struggling with chronic fatigue or stress, you may be interested in a natural way to boost your energy. Research is showing that rhodiola root could do just that and improve athletic performance as well.
Studies indicate that it can improve endurance while exercising and may improve athletic performance at events like running and cycling. (7)(8) It may also help muscles to recover more quickly after prolonged or intense workouts.
Can Improve Depression Symptoms
One of the emerging benefits of rhodiola is that it may be able to provide natural relief for mild to moderate depression. Why depression happens is still unknown, but it's thought to occur because of chemical imbalances in the brain. (9)
Rhodiola seems to be able to help balance neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and dopamine. These two chemicals are connected to mood, memory, and pleasure.
So far, studies confirm the herb's potential as a natural depression treatment. Rhodiola has been shown to improve depression, insomnia, and emotional instability and performs almost as well as a common antidepressant (sertraline) but with fewer adverse side effects. (10)(11)
How to Use Rhodiola
Rhodiola is most commonly taken as a tea or in extract form.
When purchasing rhodiola as a supplement, be careful to buy from a reputable company. Because Rhodiola rosea has been over harvested, some supplements have been adulterated with other Rhodiola species that do not have the same properties. (12)
To make sure you're getting a product that hasn't been contaminated, you can look for supplements that have been tested by third parties like USP or NSF.
If you want to use rhodiola to help with daily stress and anxiety, making a cup of tea is a great way to do this:
- Add 1-3 teaspoons of dried rhodiola root to a small pan along with 8-10 ounces of water.
- Bring the water just to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes.
- Strain out the tea into a mug and sweeten if desired before drinking.
You can also try this pre-made tea for stress that contains rhodiola.
There are few precautions for rhodiola. It's generally well tolerated with the rare side effect of a dry mouth or temporary dizziness. For some people, rhodiola can cause sleep problems if taken in the evening or at night.
Naturally Relieve Your Stress
The health benefits of rhodiola for stress, energy, and mood are what makes this herb so popular. If you are feeling constantly stressed or fatigued, why not try this very benevolent and beneficial adaptogen?
Try it as an extract or herbal tea to help your mind, body, and emotions.