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Rhodiola

What Should I Know About It?

By

Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Rhodiola rosea may be effective for improving mood and alleviating depression.
M G Therin Weise/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Also known as golden root or Arctic root, rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is an herb long used in traditional medicine in Russia and some European countries. Rhodiola is considered an adaptogen, a class of herbs said to help the body build resistance to stress.

Why Do People Use Rhodiola?

In herbal medicine, rhodiola is typically used in treatment of these health problems:

  • stress
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • poor attention span
  • poor memory
  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • Benefits of Rhodiola

    Although the health effects of rhodiola have yet to be extensively studied, research suggests that the herb may be useful in treatment of the following:

    1) Stress-related fatigue

    Regular intake of rhodiola may help fight fatigue and, in turn, boost mental performance in people struggling with stress-induced burnout, according to a study published in 2009. Study results also showed that the 30 participants taking rhodiola supplements for 28 days had a greater improvement in concentration than those who took a placebo pill for the same amount of time.

    2) Depression

    In a 2007 study, researchers had 89 adults with mild to moderate depression take 340 mg of rhodiola extract, 680 mg of rhodiola extract, or two placebo tablets every day for six weeks. Among those taking either dose of rhodiola, significant improvements in overall depression, insomnia, and emotional instability (but not self-esteem) were gained over the course of the treatment period. Study members taking the placebo tablets showed no such improvements. What's more, no serious side effects were reported by any participants.

    3) Arrhythmia

    Preliminary research suggests that rhodiola extract daily may help prevent arrhythmias (disorders of the regular rhythmic beating of the heart). However, rhodiola's heart-protecting properties need to be further studied before the herb can be recommended as a treatment for arrhythmia (a potentially serious problem that can lead to heart disease, stroke, or sudden cardiac death in some cases).

    How to Use Rhodiola

    Available in capsule, liquid, and tea form, rhodiola can be found in many health food stores. The extract is often sold in formulas that contain other adaptogenic herbs.

    Safety

    Although rhodiola is generally considered safe, it may trigger adverse effects like irritability and insomnia. If you're considering using rhodiola in treatment of a medical condition, make sure to consult a physician before you begin taking the herb.

    For more information on rhodiola, visit About.com: Natural Medicine A-Z.

    Sources:

    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." Nord J Psychiatry. 2007;61(5):343-8.

    Maslov LN, Lishmanov IuB. "Cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic properties of Rhodiolae roseae preparations." Eksp Klin Farmakol. 2007 70(5):59-67.

    Olsson EM, von Schéele B, Panossian AG. "A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue." Planta Med. 2009 75(2):105-12.

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