There is evidence for R. Rosea’s efficacy as a nootropic, mood elevator, and general purpose adaptogen. A staple of Chinese medicine, it is only second to ginseng in popularity as a promoter of all-around resilience. As an adaptogen it is purported to prevent declines in work performance, headaches, sleep disturbances, poor appetite, irritability, and fatigue while bolstering the immune system. Most, though not all, of its touted benefits have been tested in placebo-controlled studies. While there is more work to be done (there always is), high quality Rhodiola appears to be an excellent natural nootropic, one which may find a lasting place in your supplement stack.
Rhodiola extract prevented the elevation of adrenocorticotropic hormone, insulin, cortisol and other nasty byproducts of stress in rats. In another experiment supplementation improved endurance by 159%. Further improvements were observed over the course of study (Azizov, 1998). It’s adaptogenic reputation was tested in a double-blind study on students in the middle of exams, many of whom were adapting to a second language (Spassov, 2000). It had a marked impact on bolstering psychomotor function and reducing mental fatigue. Students in the verum group performed much better than those in the control group (3.20 average score versus 3.42 – nothing to scoff at). In their article on a study on subjects with stress-related fatigue Olsson et. state that “it may be concluded that Rhodiola, acting as an adaptogen, increases attention and endurance in situations of decreased performance caused by fatigue and sensations of weakness and reduce stress-induced impairments and disorders related to the function of the neuroendocrine and immune system.”
Moreover, whereas caffeine and other stimulants lose their edge with repeated use, Rhodiola’s effects did not detectably diminish after 4 weeks of use (Debock, 2003). In the same study Debock and her team found it increased muscular endurance in the verum group. Improvements in sleep patterns have also been consistently reported (Darbinyan, 2000). Because it enhances the transport of serotonin and dopamine precursors by improving the permeability of the blood brain barrier, rhodiola has been explored as a potential antidepressant. Panossian et. al state that it addresses symptoms of depression through “a broad spectrum of putative mechanisms which make it an attractive treatment from both a heuristic and mechanistic viewpoint…” but cautions that standardization of the extract, in other words knowing in what quantities of what compounds are in a preparation, is crucial to exploring its potential in treating patients with clinical depression.
Summarizing the research on Rhodiola as a memory enhancer Rathee et al. report that it significantly decreases the number of errors made in proofreading tasks and appears to be, according to some measures, more effective than old king Ginseng – at least the Siberian variety (Rathee, 2008). Preliminary research suggests it can improve lifespan by a whopping 25%…in yeast, worms, and flies (Schriner, 2013). More interesting to seasoned longevity researchers is that the pathway by which this is accomplished is independent of those targeted by caloric restriction and assorted CR mimetics (pterostilbene, rapamycin, resveratrol, etc). Whether these findings will be replicated in vertebrates or mammals has yet to be seen.
Side-effects are rare (Hung et. al 2011). In many of these areas evidence is still mounting and more research needs to be conducted to corroborate the large body of traditional knowledge that has accumulated around the herb over the millennia. Herbs are frequently adulterated or come from questionable sources. That is why we must always be careful in selecting a supplier. Allysian Science’s MasterMind contains only the best USDA organic ingredients available. It is processed in a cGMP certified facility, which means it is compliant with the latest quality-ensuring procedures.
Azizov AP, Seifulla RD. The effect of elton, leveton, fitoton and adapton on the work capacity of experimental animals [in Russian]. Eksp Klin Farmakol . 1998;61(3):61-63.
Darbinyan, V., et al. “Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.” Nordic journal of psychiatry 61.5 (2007): 343-348.
Darbinyan, V., et al. “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 (2000): 365-371.
De Bock, Katrien, et al. “Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance.” International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 14.3 (2004): 298-307.
Hung, Shao Kang, Rachel Perry, and Edzard Ernst. “The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.” Phytomedicine 18.4 (2011): 235-244.
Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation [in Russian]. Biull Eksp Biol Med . 1987;103(4):422-424.
Rathee, Permender, et al. “Natural memory boosters.” Pharmacognosy Reviews 2.4 (2008): 249.
Schriner, Samuel E., et al. “Extension of Drosophila lifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a mechanism independent from dietary restriction.” PloS one 8.5 (2013): e63886.