Rhodiola Rosea

Authored by Robert Chen and Sumeet Sharma • 
July 10, 2016

Take Home Points

  • Rhodiola rosea has been used in traditional eastern medical practices for centuries.

  • Rhodiola rosea supplementation have been shown to protect against the negative effects of stress and fatigue on cognitive function.

Origins

Rhodiola Rosea is a perennial flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae native to cold climates such as the Arctic, Central Asian mountains, and scattered through mountainous regions of eastern North America and Europe.

Rhodiola Rosea is traditionally used in Tibetan and Chinese folk medicine as a tonic to alleviate physical fatigue and protect against winter coldness.

Structure

The active ingredients in Rhodiola Rosea are rosavins and salidroside.

  • Rosavin is a cinnamyl alcohol glycoside.
  • Salidroside (Rhodioloside) is a glucoside of tyrosol. (Figure 1)

rhodiola

Figure 1. Structures of the primary active components of Rhodiola rosea: rosavin and salidroside.

Most processes are able to isolate around 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside from the plant. Rosavins have also been synthesized in the lab via a glycosylation reaction.1,2

Effect on Cognition

Rhodiola Rosea may act as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which inhibits breakdown of monoamines such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine, all of which play important roles in stress and cognition.3

Fatigue

Rhodiola Rosea was associated with decreased fatigue in a group of physicians working night shifts.4

Rhodiola rosea has been shown to decrease fatigue in 161 military cadets aged 19-21 years, as shown by the Total Antifatigue Index.5

Rhodiola Rosea (576 mg SHR-5 extract daily) has been shown to decrease fatigue in 30 participants, as measured by the Pines burnout scale, the Conners' computerized continuous performance test II (CCCPT II) indices and the Hit RT SE.6

Attention

Rhodiola Rosea (50 mg) has been shown to increase attention and decrease self-reported stress-related fatigue in college students aged 19-21 taking it daily over 20 days before final exams. There were improvements in tests for neuro-motoric fitness (maze test, tapping test), mental capacity (correction test), general well-being (emotional state and motivation as measured by the SAM questionnaire).7

Rhodiola rosea taken acutely one hour before physical activity has been shown to improve attention in 24 individuals, as measured by the Fepsy Vigilance test.8

How to take

Consider taking a supportive dose of 300 mg of Rhodiola rosea daily. However, Rhodiola rosea extract can be also be taken as-needed for acutely stressful situations.

Side Effects

Rhodiola rosea has not been shown to have addiction or withdrawal effects.

Rhodiola rosea has been associated with mild hypersalivation.5

Rhodiola rosea has been associated with increased sensitivity, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, headache, and rarely palpitations.9

Rhodiola Rosea in very high doses (>600 mg/day) has been associated with increased platelet aggregation, which may result in bruising in some individuals. Please monitor while on antiplatelet medications, such as aspirin, Plavix or Heparin.9

Safety

Rhodiola Rosea is approved as a dietary supplement component under provisions of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. It is classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

  1. Patov, S. A., Punegov, V. V., & Kuchin, A. V. (2006). Synthesis of the Rhodiola rosea glycoside rosavin. Chemistry of natural compounds, 42(4), 397-399.

  2. Kishida, M., & Akita, H. (2005). Synthesis of Rosavin and its analogues based on a Mizoroki-Heck type reaction. Tetrahedron: Asymmetry, 16(15), 2625-2630.

  3. Van Diermen, D., Marston, A., Bravo, J., Reist, M., Carrupt, P. A., & Hostettmann, K. (2009). Monoamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 122(2), 397-401.

  4. Darbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., Panossian, A., Gabrielian, E., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (2000). Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue—a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine, 7(5), 365-371.

  5. Shevtsov, V. A., Zholus, B. I., Shervarly, V. I., Vol'skij, V. B., Korovin, Y. P., Khristich, M. P., ... & Wikman, G. (2003). A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine, 10(2), 95-105.

  6. Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica, 75(2), 105.

  7. Spasov, A. A., Wikman, G. K., Mandrikov, V. B., Mironova, I. A., & Neumoin, V. V. (2000). A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine, 7(2), 85-89.

  8. De Bock, K., Eijnde, B. O., Ramaekers, M., & Hespel, P. (2004). Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 14, 298-307.

  9. Gerbarg, P. L., & Brown, R. P. (2013). Phytomedicines for prevention and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 36(1), 37-47.

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