🕒5 min read
For centuries many cultures have used plants and herbs as alternative forms of medicine to prevent and even cure certain diseases and conditions. Some may not prevent or cure any disease but have been shown to be beneficial in some way, shape, or form and as such, have been the focus of many scientific studies.
Rhodiola rosea is one such plant that has been widely examined to see exactly how it works and what it does for us. So now its time to put on our thinking caps as well our reading glasses and take a look at some of the fascinating aspects of Rhodiola rosea.
WHAT IS RHODIOLA?
Rhodiola rosea (also commonly known as lignum rhodium, golden root, etc.) is a flowering plant that can be found growing in the colder regions of Asia, Europe, and certain parts of North America. It is a relatively small plant that contains many different types of phytochemicals and nutrients such as flavonoids and polyphenols that has shown to have some pretty amazing benefits within the human body.
Besides its use as a traditional medicine in many cultures, Rhodiola rosea is sometimes used as an additive to salads and even as a flavoring for alcoholic beverages such as vodka.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF RHODIOLA?
Rhodiola rosea is one of those phytomedicinals that has an array of different benefits within the human body. Many cultures for many, many years have been using this plant for its benefits as an energy booster all the way to stress reduction. However, it hasn’t been until just recently that science has gotten a hold of this herb and really began to research just what it can do.
Rhodiola actually has been shown to improve endurance exercise performance by decreasing the perception of effort1, almost by tricking the brain and decreasing heart rate response to submaximal exercise. Other studies show how certain constituents of Rhodiola, namely rosavin and salidroside, can decrease time to exhaustion and increase pulmonary ventilation during exercise2.
This gives both professional athletes and everyday Joe’s and Jane’s ability to exercise for longer than normal without the dreaded early fatigue feeling.
Some studies have demonstrated Rhodiola to have blood glucose normalizing effects3,4. It does this by inviting a very powerful antioxidant within the plant to stimulate glucose uptake into skeletal muscle cells, in particular, it enhances the body’s ability to produce and recruit the sugar transport vesicles responsible for importing blood sugar into the cells of muscle tissue5. Something that is often lacking or defective in those of us who suffer from hyperglycemia.
Rhodiola is often thought of as the chromium picolinate of herbs, as it seems to work in a similar manner to chromium as far as its mechanisms of action to lower blood sugar.
Cancer Risk Reduction
Salidroside is a glucoside found in Rhodiola. One of its functions is its unique ability to fight different forms of cancer.
Studies show its amazing ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells of the bladder6, act as a chemotherapeutic agent for human colorectal cancer7, and even have recently demonstrated its anti-ageing, anti-inflammation, immunostimulating, DNA repair and anti-cancer effects in different model systems8.
It’s no wonder that this interesting little plant has been used for overall cancer prevention in different cultures for many years.
Millions of people across the globe suffer from some form of depression, worry, or anxiety. Its also been understood that many of these cases are due to an imbalance of the right types of neurotransmitters being fired across synaptic clefts within some of our favourite regions of the brain.
Hence why different prescription medications are prescribed for these conditions. It’s been well known that Rhodiola has been used for treating and preventing this illness, and until recently science has discovered how it does it.
Studies show how Rhodiola helps reduce symptoms of depression9,10, supports cognition and enhances mood11, and even acts via mechanisms similar to that of popular antidepressant prescription medications today12.
This almost gives the consumer the option of considering an alternative route to treating depression or other mood disorders.
When it comes to energy, much of what we experience when there is a lack of it is from emotional and mental fatigue. It has been actually concluded in one study that repeated administration of Rhodiola exerts an antifatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate, and decreases cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome13.
This is important for the stressed out health conscience athlete who takes the right supplements and eats the right foods but still has the afternoon energy shut down experience. Further, just 400mg/day of Rhodiola has been shown to be an effective treatment in subjects suffering from prolonged or chronic fatigue14.
IS RHODIOLA A NOOTROPIC?
So far, we’ve seen how Rhodiola benefits our physiology through an assortment of different mechanisms. Why couldn’t one of those mechanisms be cognitive function? A nootropic is defined as a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning15.
So, could Rhodiola act as a nootropic? In certain studies, Rhodiola has shown to reduce general fatigue under certain stressful conditions as well as mental performance16. Another study demonstrated Rhodiola to have similar cognitive-boosting effects while the test subjects were under various mental stressors17, showing Rhodiola to be a kind of mental relaxant and alertness booster at the same time.
Further, Rhodiola has been shown to improve memory18, act as an anti-depressant19, and ameliorate memory and emotional behavior20. So, it appears evident that, yes... Rhodiola is by definition a nootropic.
WHAT DIFFERENT KINDS OF RHODIOLA ARE AVAILABLE?
To begin with, organic and non-organic Rhodiola Rosea extracts are available. We know that the majority of the population prefers less harsh chemicals entering their bodies, as well as entering the actual Rhodiola they are supplementing with. The idea is the less chemicals (extreme amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, etc.) that enters the herb, the better.
This is why most people prefer Rhodiola manufacturers such as Brainpower Nootropics who formulate their Rhodiola using an organic form of the herb with no fillers, binders, or stearic acid salts in their products – as many others do to shortcut the manufacturing process and save money.
So, besides the various species of Rhodiola (integrifolia, rhodantha, etc.) which contain different ingredients, the rosea form is the one that contains the most biologically active compounds that have been researched the most and have been shown to have the most health benefits.
With all of the evidence showing each of the different benefits Rhodiola rosea has to human health, it is no wonder that this little herb has gained such popularity in the dietary supplement market. However, with popularity comes demand and competition to sell this fascinating herbal extract.
With that, it's also important to know the difference between good and bad quality Rhodiola when choosing a brand. Especially with all of the previously mentioned attributes of Rhodiola, we can now see why it’s good to know where to buy, in what form, and what kind of herbal extract to use to get the most out of this amazing little plant.