Rhodiola Rosea: The ultimate remedy for stress and fatigue
If you're looking for a pick-me-up then Rhodiola should be your herb of choice. This remarkable herb has a wide and varied history of use amongst naturopaths, herbalists, Ayuvedic practitioners and nutritional therapists, who rely upon it for its powerful medicinal properties.
Rhodiola rosea also known as golden root is a hardy plant native to the mountainous regions of North America, Asia and Europe. The botanical name of this herb alludes to the rose-like aroma of the rootstock when freshly cut. It has been traditionally used as an 'adaptogen' a botanical compound though to greatly improve the body's ability to adapt to stress.
The adaptogenic and stimulatory effects of Rhodiola are attributed to its biologically active phenolic glycosides: salidroside, rhodioniside, rosin, rhodiolin, rosavin, rosarian, rosiridin, salidroside and p-tyrosol.
Rosavin, rosin and rosarin are unique to Rhodiola rosea and thought to be particularly important for its adaptogenic properties. As well as this it contains a wide range of antioxidants and flavonoids including gallic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, catechins and pranthocyanidins.
The Energising Benefits of Rhodiola
Rhodiola's exemplary reputation lies in the success of its traditional use for eliminating fatigue, stimulating the nervous system, enhancing work prformance and improving depression, which unlike many other medicinal herbs is supported by clinica evidence.
Unsurprisingly it is popularly used as a remedy for stress related fatigue in traditional medicine practices.
Rhodiola is an herb that increases the body's resistance to all forms of physical, chemical and mental stress including sleep deprivation, general fatigue and extreme temperatures.
In countries such as Russia, Scandinavia and Canada these benefits are well established and subsequently Rhodiola has been usd for centuries to cope with harsh living conditions and cold climate. Russian researchers have also found it to be helpful for preventing high altitude sickness.
Furthermore it is commonly used in Russia by individuals who are frequently subjected to periods of intense mental and physical exertion - typically doctors, students and athletes. Extract of Rhodiola rosea is registered in Russia as a medicinal product for human use.
The majority of the research has been published in Russia and Scandinavia and studies there have identified that Rhodiola rosea extracts are able to exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate. It has also been found to significantly reduce the negative effects of prolonged low intensity exercise that would normally result in fatigue and prevent further exercise, thereby increasing endurance.
As well as this Rhodiola appears to be highly reliable in reducing fatigue symptoms and improving symptoms of stress amongst individuals with general stress not related to exercise. Furthermore, in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome Rhodiola has been shown to decrease cortisol response to awakening stress.
Individuals with life and work related stress given 200mg of Rhodiola extract twice daily for 4 weeks reported a reduction in stress and fatigue and significant improvements in social and work function as well as mood. This and many other studies support the claim that Rhodiola may benefit physical and mental performance.
How it works
It is thought that the adaptogenic properties and nervous system activities of Rhodiola rosea are primarily attributed to its ability to influence and optimise the levels and activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Namely serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine which play an important role in reducing stress, increasing energy as well as lifting your mood and sharpening your mental focus.
Rhodiola also helps to regulate production of the stress hormone cortisol when you are under physical or emotional duress. Cortisol plays a key role in helping you to cope with stressful situations, however where there is chronic stress the body can overproduce cortisol leading to numerous health issues such as supressed immune function and poor energy metabolism. Rhodiola can help to counter the negative repercussions of excessive cortisol release.
Rhodiola rosea is most commonly sold in the form of root extract standardized to contain 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides – the two types of compounds believed to be its main active ingredients. However most clinical trials used a Rhodiola rosea extract standardised to a minimum of 3% rosavins and 0.8% to 1% salidroside, which is the naturally occurring ratio in the plant.
Dosage varies depending upon standardization. Suggested dosage:
For chronic usage
Take: 360-600 mg Rhodiola extract standardized for 1% rosavin daily
Take: 180-300 mg of an extract standardized for 2% rosavin
Take: 100-170 mg of an extract standardized for 3.6% rosavin
Otherwise take as directed by a qualified health practitioner
For acute usage (such as an exam or sporting competition)
Take 3 x the dose used for long term supplementation.
N.B: Doses as low as 50mg/d have been reported to be effective against fatigue
It is usual to begin supplementation several weeks prior to a period of expected stress and to continue throughout this period. Studies indicate that Rhodiola rosea has been administered safely for periods ranging from as little as one day up to four months.
Safety & Toxicity
Rhodiola extract is generally considered safe at doses up to 1.5-2g and above. Clinical feedback reports that exceeding this dose may cause some individuals to experience irritability and insomnia within a few days. Clinical trials report few or no adverse reactions. Rhodiola is not recommended during pregnancy or lactation due to insufficient safety evidence.
Jacqueline Newson BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy
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