As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea makes you more resilient to stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
People from Russia have been using it for hundreds of years. It helped them boost their productivity, mood, memory, and mental resilience.
In terms of its strength, Rhodiola might have the strongest anti-fatigue effect out of all the adaptogens.
There have been over 180 studies done on this herb.
And so far, the bulk of the research suggests that Rhodiola Rosea helps:
- Repair and Protect Brain Cells – Rhodiola Rosea stimulates neurogenesis: the repair and birth of new neurons. Rhodiola also improves neuron’s energy metabolism by improving ATP production. ATP is the energy currency of your cells. In addition, active components in Rhodiola protect your neurons from oxidative stress and cell death.
- Improve Energy – Rhodiola is very anti-fatigue. Research shows it promotes energy production, enhances mental performance under stress, and reduces fatigue – be it mental or physical. Rhodiola is also an ideal nootropic for studying. It improves sustained focus and attention to details.
- Enhance Your Mood – Rhodiola enhances your brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. It makes you more alert, elevates mood, and is effective at relieving chronic anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
In some of the studies which we’ll show you below, Rhodiola even gave prescription anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs a run for their money, in terms of the effectiveness.
In addition, Rhodiola is also a potent anti-inflammatory herb.
People often use it to treat headaches, chronic inflammation, infections, and even cancer. (1, 2)
This article explores the clinical benefits of Rhodiola for your brain.
What is Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is an Arctic herb that grows in cold climates across Asia and Europe.
The first recording of Rhodiola dates back to 77 C.E. when Dioscorides wrote about its medicinal properties in De Materia Medica.
Rhodiola contains a total of 140 compounds. But only a few of those are critical for its nootropic benefits:
- Rosavins (rosin, rosavin, rosarin)
These chemicals need to work in harmony together for Rhodiola to be effective. Just like the nature intended.
If you wonder what kind of herb Rhodiola is, it’s called an adaptogen.
Adaptogens help your body and mind deal with stress. Therefore, Rhodiola helps promote physiological function.
The benefits of this herb are immediate, but also long-term (5):
- A single Rhodiola dose will improve your body’s reaction to short-term stressors, such as flight or fight response. Specifically, Rhodiola will help you think clearly and make better decisions under these situations.
- Long-term supplementation of Rhodiola promotes the function of your hypothalamus, pituitary glands, and adrenals, also called the HPA axis. HPA axis is responsible for managing long-term stress.
Essentially, Rhodiola counters the brain-numbing effect of stress.
And it maintains your cognitive function when it matters the most.
Russians have used Rhodiola to improve productivity in workers, mental sharpness in scientists and astronauts, and performance in elite athletes.
Overall, research suggests that Rhodiola works best under high-stress situations.
These include sleep deprivation, athletic contests, exams, and deadlines.
And alongside boosting performance, Rhodiola also optimizes your brain pathways:
- Brain cell regeneration
- Brain energy
- Neuron protection
How it Works
There are two main ways in which Rhodiola boosts your mental performance.
Improves Memory, Focus, and Cognition During Stress
Stress can drain your brain of energy and resources. This can lead to brain fog and lack of focus.
Rhodiola counters the negative effects of stress by energizing your nervous system and boosting mental clarity.
What’s more, Rhodiola can even prevent neuron death. It also stimulates the growth and repair of injured neurons.
A study from China discovered astonishing effects of Rhodiola on neurons in the hippocampus of rats.
50 rats in the study suffered from depression caused by chronic stress.
As a result of their depression, the number of neurons in their hippocampus was significantly diminished.
These animals were split into 5 groups. Only one group took Rhodiola Rosea.
At the end of the trial, the researchers found that the number of brain cells in the hippocampus of depressed rats who took Rhodiola increased and fully recovered.
These also included 5-HT serotonergic neurons which play a key role in regulating mood.
After all, serotonin is your brain’s happy molecule. And optimal levels of this neurotransmitter will keep your mood elevated.
Ultimately, the study concluded that:
Rhodiola Rosea boosts the proliferation of neurons in the hippocampus. And may reverse the damage of injured brain cells. (3)
Both anecdotal and clinical evidence show that Rhodiola regulates neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. All of which regulate mood.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested the effects of Rhodiola on depressed patients between 18-70 years old.
The researchers split these people into three groups:
- The first group took 340mg of Rhodiola SHR-5 extract every day.
- The second group took 680mg of Rhodiola SHR-5 extract every day.
- The third group took a placebo for the duration of the trial.
The researchers then recorded results of Rhodiola on depression on the first day, and after 42 days of taking the herb.
The result: both groups that took Rhodiola saw a major reduction in their depression.
Their mood, sleep quality, and day to day life significantly improved from taking Rhodiola Rosea for 6 weeks.
Furthermore, it didn’t matter whether they took 340mg or 680mg daily, as both dosages appeared equally effective.
This suggests that Rhodiola works just fine on lower dosages.
Finally, the research concluded that when taken long-term and in the correct doses, Rhodiola is potent at reducing mild to moderate depression. (4)
Rhodiola’s Effects on Your Brain
Brain Cell Protection
Research shows that Rhodiola promotes neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells.
In addition, it also boosts antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory processes in the brain. (6)
Rhodiola also combats oxidative stress caused by amyloid plaque in the brain. As a result, inflammation reduces too.
This ultimately protects your brain from cognitive impairment and mood disorders.
Last but not least, Rhodiola positively affects HPA axis – regulating endocrine function and strengthening your resilience to stress. (7)
Rhodiola Rosea helps replenish and maintain mood-regulating neurotransmitters:
These brain chemicals are critical for mood, focus, memory, and information processing speed.
There’s an enzyme in your brain called monoamine oxidase (MAO). In essence, the purpose of MAO is to break down your neurotransmitters.
However, Rhodiola prevents this. It is an MAO inhibitor, meaning it allows for more dopamine to float around in your brain.
This leads to elevated mood, focus, and motivation. (8)
Rhodiola also inhibits the enzyme which destroys acetylcholine. As a result, it helps you maintain a sharp and clear memory. (9)
As I’ve said in the beginning, Rhodiola helps boost ATP – the energy currency of your cells.
Because of this, Rhodiola is considered a natural stimulant.
But unlike coffee, it doesn’t cause a crash or jitters.
Instead, its effects last 6 hours and then slowly taper off. Without causing you to feel mood swings.
However, a boost in ATP isn’t the only way Rhodiola increases your mental energy.
It also works by boosting your brain’s electrical impulses. In turn, this helps you to stay alert and focused on tasks. (10)
Ultimately, Rhodiola combines its neuroprotective and energizing benefits to enhance mental sharpness and clarity in individuals of all ages.
Clinical Evidence of Rhodiola Rosea’s Benefits
Rhodiola Rosea Prevents Fatigue
Anti-fatigue is probably the most common adjective given to Rhodiola in the nootropic community.
And there’s a good reason for this; studies show that Rhodiola Rosea is one of the best adaptogens for erasing fatigue and boosting mental energy.
One such study gathered 161 young volunteers between the ages of 19-21.
The researchers wanted to measure these people’s stress and fatigue during mental work after taking a Rhodiola Rosea SHR-5 extract.
They also tested the efficacy of two different doses of the extract. The other dose was 50% higher.
Moving further, the results revealed that Rhodiola showed strong anti-fatigue effects in the volunteers.
And the best of all, the lower dose produced similar effects as the higher dose. (11)
Rhodiola Rosea Reduces Depression
Research published in Phytomedicine compared the effects of Rhodiola Rosea with the popular antidepressant Zoloft (Sertraline) for treating depression.
Zoloft, while often effective, can also come with a slew of side effects. Including:
- Bouts of fatigue
- Low libido
Now, this study gathered 57 people suffering from a major depressive disorder.
They split them into three groups: one taking Rhodiola, another Zoloft, and the third group received a placebo.
The trial used 3 different tests to record the depression score.
Ultimately, the researchers found that:
- Rhodiola Rosea was effective at alleviating depression, although not to the same extent as Zoloft. But Rhodiola also came with fewer side effects. Most people in this study tolerated Rhodiola better.
The researchers came to a simple conclusion: while Rhodiola was slightly less effective in reducing depression, it was also much safer and better tolerated.
In other words, Rhodiola had a better benefit/risk ratio for people diagnosed with mild-moderate depression. (12)