has been used traditionally in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and other European countries as a “tonic herb,” said to fight fatigue, aid convalescence from illness, prevent infections, and enhance sexual function. In the twentieth century, Soviet physicians classified rhodiola as an
Perhaps the only indisputable example of an adaptogen is a healthful lifestyle. By eating right, exercising regularly, and generally living a life of balance and moderation, you will increase your physical fitness and ability to resist illnesses of all types. Multivitamin/multimineral supplements could offer similarly general benefits, at least in people whose diet is deficient in basic nutrients. Whether there are any herbs that offer adaptogenic benefits, however, remains unproven (and somewhat unlikely). Nonetheless, advocates of the adaptogen concept believe that rhodiola (as well as
What Is Rhodiola Used for Today?
Rhodiola is currently marketed as the “new ginseng,” said to fight fatigue
For example, a
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated one-time use of the same rhodiola extract (at a dose of 370 mg or 555 mg) in 161 male military cadets undergoing sleep deprivation and stress.
Finally, a third double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined the effects of a low dose of this rhodiola extract (100 mg daily for 20 days) in 40 foreign students undergoing examinations (presumably a highly stressful situation).
While these results may sound impressive overall, they were all performed in former Soviet republics, and studies from these sources must be viewed with caution. For reasons that are unclear, double-blind studies performed in the former USSR (or China) almost always find the tested treatment effective.
One small double-blind trial performed in Belgium did find evidence that use of a different rhodiola extract at a dose of 200 mg 1 hour before endurance exercise may improve performance.
Rhodiola extracts are standardized to their content of salidroside (also called rhodioloside). A typical dosage of 170 to 185 mg daily supplies 4.5 mg of salidroside. When rhodiola is used as a one-time treatment, two to three times this dose is often used. Note: Most published studies involved a single proprietary product. It is not clear that the results of these studies apply to products using different rhodiola sources, or different methods of extraction.
There are no known or suspected safety risks with rhodiola, and in clinical trials, no severe adverse effects have been reported. 1,2,3,10 However, comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
1. Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, 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 . 2000;7:365-371.
2. Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiolarosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine . 2003;10:95-105.
3. Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine . 2000;7:85-89.
6. Colson SN, Wyatt FB, Johnston DL, et al. Cordyceps sinensis - and Rhodiola rosea -based supplementation in male cyclists and its effect on muscle tissue oxygen saturation. J Strength Cond Res . 2005;19:358-363.
7. Wing SL, Askew EW, Luetkemeier MJ, Ryujin DT, Kamimori GH, Grissom CK. Lack of effect of Rhodiola or oxygenated water supplementation on hypoxemia and oxidative stress. Wilderness Environ Med . 2003;14:9-16.
8. Udintsev SN, Krylova SG, Fomina TI. The enhancement of the efficacy of adriamycin by using hepatoprotectors of plant origin in metastases of Ehrlich's adenocarcinoma to the liver in mice [in Russian]. Vopr Onkol . 1992;38:1217-1222.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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