Rhodiola Rosea: Optimise your physical and mental capacity
In this article I want to focus on Rhodiola Rosea – a herb that has been shown to help with improving physical and mental performance. This is one of my absolute favourite herbs to utilise with clients, particularly those with high physical and mental demands.
Many of us are bombarded with physical and emotional stressors on a daily basis. Over time this can take its toll on how we feel and function. Our energy can become depleted, our memory not what it once was, we lose our focus and we may even find ourselves making more mistakes and just not performing as we want to.
Rhodiola has a strong traditional use in Eastern Europe and in Asia as well. It has a reputation for stimulating the nervous system, decreasing depression, improving work performance, reducing fatigue and even reducing altitude sickness, but what does the research say?
Thankfully, this is one herb that has a reasonable level of research behind it, many involving animal studies, but also many studies on humans as well, so let’s take a look:
Memory and Learning
Reduced memory and learning are common side effects of chronic stress. Of course, the basics to improving this area are managing nutrition and exercise appropriately, as well as adequate sleep and rest. In addition to this, studies have shown Rhodiola can to help reduce the number of errors made when performing certain experimental tests, such as reaction time or memory tests.
Rhodiola has been shown to reduce mental fatigue, and improve performance on work related tasks by 20% compared to a placebo. That is not a lone study either, this type of benefit has been repeated in human trials, with additional benefits such as increased motivation and improved sleep patterns after taking Rhodiola.
Managing stress, reducing fatigue and improving mood
Consuming adaptogens like Rhodiola during stressful times, has been shown to help improve resilience to stress.
Studies have demonstrated significant improvements in symptoms of stress, such as exhaustion after only 3 days of supplementation. It has been shown to help prevent against burnout, that can sometimes occur with chronic stress.
Rhodiola appears to have a beneficial impact on neurotransmitters in the brain, perhaps helping to balance them and supporting serotonin levels. As a result, this helps to also support mood and reduce symptoms of depression and emotional instability.
Results from Rhodiola can be quite quick, with many studies demonstrating short term benefit. This means it may be something that can be used acutely to enhance energy levels and performance.
Benefits to exercise performance
Rhodiola has been shown to reduce one’s rate of perceived exertion. This basically means it feels less hard work to do a given activity. Perhaps due to its anti-fatigue effects.
There is evidence that Rhodiola can help to reduce lactate production, as a result this may improve one’s ability to sustain effort of a given task. Equally, there is some evidence to suggest that post exercise muscle damage and inflammation also reduces, all favourable changes in terms of recovery.
The main benefits with Rhodiola in terms of exercise performance, is likely to be more associated to endurance. There is no evidence of improvements in muscle strength or power using Rhodiola. As something that could be taken prior to exercise, however, I can see the potential benefits with this.
How to take Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola can be taken as a root powder, or using root extracts containing the active ingredients rosavin’s and salidroside.
Typically, a standard extract delivers 3% rosavin’s and 1% salidroside’s.
Using a standard extract, a good dose tends to be between 300-600mg, although dosages as low as 50mg have been shown to be beneficial. In addition to that, higher percentage rosavin and salidroside extracts, mean a lower dose with a similar benefit is possible.