Q. What is rhodiola? I’ve heard that it can help boost energy, relieve depression and enhance immunity. How does rhodiola work, and what are its benefits?
A. Rhodiola rosea (often referred to simply as rhodiola) is an herb that has been used for centuries in Russia and Scandinavia. Also known as golden root or roseroot, it grows in dry, sandy ground at high altitudes in Europe and Asia. The earliest surviving recorded applications of the herb were by the physician Dioscorides in ancient Greece.
In traditional folk medicine, rhodiola was prescribed to increase physical endurance, energy, fertility and longevity, and to help relieve disorders of the nervous system. It has also been used to promote resistance to high-altitude sickness. Modern science has validated that the herb could have these effects on human and animal physiology. According to the American Botanical Council, “since 1960, more than 180 pharmacological, phytochemical and clinical studies have been published” on rhodiola. The most important compounds in the herb are known as rosavins, and other ingredients have beneficial effects as well.
Rhodiola is classified as an “adaptogen” because of its ability to help the body adapt to stress. Several studies have shown that the herb shortens recovery time between sessions of intense exercise and also increases physical and mental work capacity.
Researchers have found that it can affect levels of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine by inhibiting their breakdown. It can also influence levels of hormones and other neurotransmitters that are released in response to chronic and acute stress.
In animal studies, rhodiola has been shown to positively affect the hormonal system. In one study, the herb enhanced thyroid gland function without causing hyperthyroidism; in another, it increased immune function by its action on the thymus gland. A Russian animal study showed that rhodiola may enhance fertility; it increased egg maturation, the number of growing follicles and other factors that promote fertility.
Most people who use rhodiola find that it increases their energy and mental clarity, and improves their mood. It is a very safe herb with low toxicity, but not everyone should use it. Side-effects can include anxiety and insomnia, and it should not be used if a person has bipolar disorder, is taking stimulants or is on antidepressant medications.
The typical daily dose is 100 mg to 170 mg of the herb in a standardized form containing 2.6 percent rosavin.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com