Rhodiola rosea is plant member of the Crassulaceae family that grows mostly in cold northern regions of the world in the continents of Asia, Europe, and North America. Also known as golden root, Aaron’s rod, and rose root, this plant has long been part of ancient human medical practices, even being referenced by Dioscorides, a noted Roman physician in his work De Materia Medica, way back in 77 CE. It is called hong jing tian in traditional Chinese medicine where it is prescribed as an energy tonic both for the body and mind.
The recent surge in the popularity of Rhodiola rosea is primarily due to efforts both by proponents of alternative medicine and by multi-level marketers who have been peddling Rhodiola rosea as a multi-cure dietary supplement. However, the rising popularity of Rhodiola rosea in the United States also came at a price with some entities making unsubstantiated medical claims with their products. The claims were so outlandish that the FDA forcibly had a number of Rhodiola rosea products pulled from the market.
With so many claims about supposed curative powers of Rhodiola rosea, its actual proven abilities are somewhat muddled. Opportunistic distributors of Rhodiola rosea supplements were bold enough to claim that it can cure a wide range of medical conditions including cancer, the common cold, bacterial infections, influenza, and migraines. Such claims may not even be needed at all since some of its abilities are significant and are already proven by clinical studies done by reputable institutions.
Among the established properties of Rhodiola rosea are its abilities to stabilize mood, ease depression, relieve physical and mental fatigue, and its ability to enhance mental performance. People from Scandinavian countries have long been using Rhodiola rosea as a sort of anti-fatigue tonic to help them endure the long winter seasons and stave off cabin fever.
The supposed cognitive enhancing properties of Rhodiola rosea is also supported by multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and are placebo controlled. The results of the studies suggest that the fatigue reducing properties of Rhodiola rosea also improved the cognitive processes of the test subjects. Compared to a placebo group, the group who was given a single dose of Rhodiola rosea extract had an antifatigue index value that was significantly higher and the performance of this same group was also observed to be higher in psychometric tests.
One study took it a step further by testing the effects of Rhodiola rosea on healthy physicians on night duty. The physicians were observed on the areas of associative thinking, the ability to calculate, focus, concentration, perception. The group that was given a dose of Rhodiola rosea extract showed clinically significant improvements in the tests compared to the placebo group. What is even more interesting is that the physicians treated with Rhodiola rosea reported no side effects or experiencing any discomfort at all.
While this may sound exciting it should be noted that all these tests that suggests cognitive enhancing properties of Rhodiola rosea were done with the presence of stressors. There currently are no studies on Rhodiola rosea yet that tests whether its cognitive enhancing properties are only triggered in the presence of stressors. It must also be noted that there the extracts from the plant vary in composition from region to region, which means that the effects of Rhodiola rosea may also vary depending on the area from where it was gathered. There are also a few known side effects from Rhodiola rosea supplementation. These include upset stomach, hyper-salivation, restlessness, nausea, and sleeplessness.
- It has proven anxiolytic and anti-fatigue properties.
- It has clinically backed studies supporting its cognitive enhancing abilities.
- It is widely available and relatively cheap.
- It has a lot of other potential medical application.
- It can complement your existing nootropic stack.
- Its chemical composition is not consistent.
- Its cognitive enhancing effect may not work without stressors.
- It has its own set of unpleasant side effects.
Rhodiola rosea is generally safe and well-tolerated. The daily recommended dosage for Rhodiola rosea is between 100 to 600mg. It is best to consult your healthcare professional before starting with supplementation.