Just as some humans are resilient to harsh climates and situations, so too are some types of plants. Interestingly, the qualities of plants that make them robust to mother nature might also make them beneficial for building up strength and resilience in humans who consume them. Those bitter-tasting vegetables are a double-edged sword. Compounds in plants designed to ward off predators are sometimes profoundly beneficial for health when eaten in smaller doses.
Lucky for us, people long ago discovered many types of plants that do exactly this.
One such plant (or rather, root) is Rhodiola rosea. It grows in frigid climates, and has been cultivated and consumed by cultures throughout history. Finally, many people are beginning to realise the health potential of this root and use it as a supplement.
Rhodiola: Deep History and Modern Uses
Part of the Crassulaceae family, Rhodiola rosea goes by many names—Rhodiola, Roseroot, Rosenroot, Golden root, and Arctic root, to name a few. It grows in the crevices of rocks, on mountains, and on sea cliffs in certain regions of Europe, Asia (Siberia), North America, and Britain.
Who discovered Rhodiola?
Many countries recognise Rhodiola a medicine for certain conditions. In Russia as recent as 1969, Rhodiola was recommended for use as a stimulant to fight fatigue. The function of Rhodiola dietary supplements is listed by the European Food Safety Authority as “contributing to optimal mental and cognitive activity.” Second only to Panax Ginseng, Rhodiola is the most highly used adaptogenic aid around the world (Bystritsky et al., 2008).
Active Components of Rhodiola
What exactly makes Rhodiola so beneficial? Most of the qualities of Rhodiola can be attributed to two compounds—salidrosides, and rosavins. Salidrosides are phenolic compounds (plant molecules with health properties) that have a variety of antioxidant properties; they may account for a majority of Rhodiola’s benefits. Rosavins belong to a group of compounds known as phenylpropanoids (organic plant compounds). When combined with salidrosides, they might exert potent biological activities (Panossian & Wagner, 2005).
Rhodiola as an Adaptogen
Along with other “plant adaptogens” like ginseng and Withania Somnifera, Rhodiola is known as an “adaptogen.” While not universally accepted in medicine, the term refers to any plant or compound with the ability to reduce the reaction to stress (lower the “alarm phase”) or prevent exhaustion that might happen due to long term stress. Other definitions of adaptogens include the ability to “normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress,” a route by which they increase “non-specific” stress resistance. In other words—consuming an adaptogen makes you better able to handle stress.
Rhodiola has been studied extensively for its potential to improve both cognitive and physical performance. It has been shown that supplementing with Rhodiola can improve parameters related to endurance, metabolic fitness, cognitive capacity, and antioxidant status, making it a promising ergogenic aid (Noreen et al., 2013).
The performance boost from Rhodiola supplementation may be due to greater energy production, more efficient utilisation of energy, or a combination of the two. Rhodiola has been found to significantly increase the synthesis and resynthesis of ATP in the mitochondria of rats after intense exercise, resulting in a greater work capacity (Abidov et al., 2010). During endurance exercise, participants who took Rhodiola experienced lower levels of lactate and markers of skeletal muscle damage (Noreen et al., 2013).
Rhodiola has also been found to boost antioxidant capacity in competitive athletes and healthy adults, but may be less effective in reducing markers of oxidative stress and stress hormones in response to physical exertion (Noreen et al., 2013).
In terms of cognitive performance, Rhodiola has been shown to improve reaction time and total response time in healthy adults when taken over four weeks (Shevtsov et al., 2003). In a study conducted by Darbinyan et al. (2000), adults with cognitive deficiencies experienced improved concentration, forgetfulness, memory, and irritability after a 12-week Rhodiola supplementation regimen. Additionally, a Rhodiola-containing supplement was able to improve speed, attention, and accuracy on cognitive tests under stressful conditions (Spasov et al., 2000).
Overall, Rhodiola has the potential to improve both cognitive and physical performance, making it a promising supplement for individuals looking to enhance their athletic and mental abilities.
AusVitality Mindlift contains 50 mg of Rhodiola Rosea ext Equiv: Rhodiola Rosea (dry) 800 mg in every dose.
Abidov, M., Crendal, F., Grachev, S., Seifulla, R., & Ziegenfuss, T. (2010). Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, 149(4), 574-576.
Darbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., Panossian, A., Gabrielian, E., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (2000). 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, 7(5), 365-371.
De Bock, K., Eijnde, B. O., Ramaekers, M., & Hespel, P. (2004). Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 14(3), 298-307.
Noreen, E. E., Buckley, J. G., & Lewis, S. L. (2013). The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,