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Traditional Indications

Rhodiola is an adaptogen, antidepressant, anti-TB, cardioprotective, stomachic and central nervous system enhancement. It is a popular plant in traditional medical systems in Eastern Europe and Asia with a reputation for stimulating the nervous system, decreasing depression, enhancing work performance, eliminating fatigue, and preventing high altitude sickness. Rhodiola rosea may be effective for improving mood and alleviating depression. Pilot studies on human subjects showed that it improves physical and mental performance, and may reduce fatigue. (1)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Rhodiola is known as Hónɡ Jǐnɡ Tiān 红景天. Hong Jin Tian is sweet, tart and cold and enters the Spleen, Stomach, Lung and Heart channels. Hónɡ Jǐnɡ Tiān tonifies Qi to correct Qi deficiency, tonifies the Lungs, benefits the brain and mood, arrests bleeding, dissolves blood stasis and eliminates swellings. Hónɡ Jǐnɡ Tiān is indicated for Qi deficiency with weak body, feeling cold after sickness, shortness of breath and weakness. It is also used to treat coughing up blood, pneumonia, erectile dysfunction and leucorrhoea in women. (2)

Pharmacognosy

Rhodiola is an adaptogens and enhances endurance and strength. A study to determine the effects o Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance, perceived exertion, mood, and cognitive function found acute Rhodiola rosea ingestion decreases heart rate response to submaximal exercise and appears to improve endurance exercise performance by decreasing the perception of effort. (3)

Rhodiola is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAO). An enzyme called monoamine oxidase is involved in removing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine from the brain. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are a class of drugs that inhibit the activity of one or both monoamine oxidase enzymes: monoamine oxidase A and monoamine oxidase B. Rhodiola rosea L. roots have potent anti-depressant activity by inhibiting MAO A and may also find application in the control of senile dementia by their inhibition of MAO B. (4)

Rhodiola has been categorised as an adaptogen by Russian researchers due to its observed ability to increase resistance to a variety of chemical, biological, and physical stressors.

In studies, experimental groups taking Rhodiola have demonstrated a significant reduction in self-reported, anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression at 14 days and a significant improvements in total mood. (5)

Rhodiola influences the release of stress hormones while concurrently boosting energy. Rhodiola extract offers comprehensive treatment of stress symptoms and can prevent chronic stress and stress-related complications. (6)

Rhodiola standardized extract shows anti-depressive potency in patients with mild to moderate depression. (7)

A randomised, double-blind, placebo- controlled trial using Rhodiola rosea therapy for major depressive disorder concluded major depressive disorder (MDD). (8)

A study examining the constituents rhodiola roseain, isolated from in Rhodiola rosea found these constituents displays anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects with the study concluding that Rhodiola may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of inflammation and neurodegenerative disease. (9)

A study investigating the effect of acute and 4-week Rhodiola rosea intake on physical capacity, muscle strength, speed of limb movement, reaction time, and attention found Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise capacity in young healthy volunteers. (10)

A study investigating the effects of long term consumption of Rhodiola on physical performance as well as on the redox status in a group of competitive athletes during endurance exercise concluded Rhodiola supplementation is able to reduce both lactate levels and parameters of skeletal muscle damage after an exhaustive exercise session and in addition to ameliorate fatty acid consumption. Taken together those observations confirm that Rhodiola may increase the body’s ability to adapt to physical exercise. (11)

A study investigating chronic Rhodiola extract consumption in young, healthy, and physically active men found Rhodiola can improve the results of some psychomotor tests (simple and choice reaction time). (12)

1. PFAF. Rhodiola rosea 2019.
2. Dragon A. Radix Rhodiolae Crenulate 2019.
3. Noreen EE, Buckley JG, Lewis SL, Brandauer J, Stuempfle KJ. The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 2013;27(3):839-47.
4. van Diermen D, Marston A, Bravo J, Reist M, Carrupt PA, Hostettmann K. Monoamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2009;122(2):397-401.
5. Cropley M, Banks AP, Boyle J. The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms. 2015;29(12):1934-9.
6. Anghelescu I-G, Edwards D, Seifritz E, Kasper S. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice. 2018:1-11.
7. Darbinyan V, Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, Malmström C, Panossian A. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. 2007;61(5):343-8.
8. Mao JJ, Li QS, Soeller I, Xie SX, Amsterdam JD. Rhodiola rosea therapy for major depressive disorder: a study protocol for a randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trial. Journal of clinical trials. 2014;4:170-.
9. Lee Y, Jung J-C, Jang S, Kim J, Ali Z, Khan IA, et al. Anti-Inflammatory and Neuroprotective Effects of Constituents Isolated from Rhodiola rosea. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2013;2013:514049-.
10. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2004;14(3):298-307.
11. Parisi A, Tranchita E, Duranti G, Ciminelli E, Quaranta F, Ceci R, et al. Effects of chronic Rhodiola Rosea supplementation on sport performance and antioxidant capacity in trained male: preliminary results. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 2010;50(1):57-63.
12. Jówko E, Sadowski J, Długołęcka B, Gierczuk D, Opaszowski B, Cieśliński I. Effects of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on mental performance, physical capacity, and oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men. Journal of sport and health science. 2018;7(4):473-80.