Rhodiola rosea has been used for more than three thousand years as a natural tonic to increase energy and boost vitality. Rhodiola also helps fight stress and reduce anxiety, as well as increase virility and reduce recovery time after exercise.
Experts believe that 80% of health problems are caused directly or indirectly by an excess of stress which if left untreated, can cause long term illness.
Our highly stressful lifestyle is probably the main factor that contributes to the onset of chronic disease and premature ageing.
Rhodiola rosea (also called rhodiola), naturally guards against stress. This is because it is an adaptogen which helps the body deal with physical and psychological stress.
Adaptogens are natural substances that strengthen the resistance of our bodies and help to keep their functions in a normal and healthy range, even if physical or mental stress occurs. Adaptogens help to keep the body stable, through the process known as self-regulation.
This simply means that although you are under great physical or mental stress, you can keep yourself healthy and active. Rhodiola rosea prevents stress hormones from interrupting the body's harmony, thereby avoiding negative pathogenic effects on the body and the mind.
The main benefits of adaptogens consists in providing more energy during the day and reducing the feeling of stress. This entails an increase in resistance, better concentration and a deeper and more restful sleep. Adaptogens also accelerate recovery after disease.
What is rhodiola rosea and where it does it come from?
Rhodiola rosea is a very hardy plant that grows in the polar climate, more than 3,000 metres above sea level, in the Siberian Altai mountains. The plant is 30-76 cm in length and has yellow flowers. It is referred to as golden root, Siberian root, rhodiola or arctic root.
The rhodiola rosea has been used in Russia for centuries to help cope with the cold Siberian climate and the stress of everyday life.
Rhodiola rosea belongs to the crassulaceae family. It is important to know that there are more than two hundred rhodiola plant species, but only the rhodiola rosea plant has been shown to have health benefits. The name of this plant comes from the fact that when one cuts its root, it has a scent similar to that of a rose.
What is the rhodiola rosea plant for and how does it work?
Rhodiola rosea inhibits subtypes A and B of the enzyme monoamine oxidase, also known as Mao-a and Mao-b, whose function is to metabolise serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) and dopamine (DA).
Due to the ability of these enzymes to inhibit (not stop, but inhibit) neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine stay active longer and in higher concentrations in the brain. The activity of serotonin in the brain improves and stabilises our state of mind. The activity of dopamine in the brain makes us feel safer, more positive and with a higher level of motivation.
Rhodiola rosea also seems to influence the peptide opioids, which are amino acids such as beta-endorphin that act as neurotransmitters in the central and peripheral nervous system. Some evidence suggests that rhodiola causes this effect because it regulates the production of cortisol (the "stress hormone") in the adrenal glands during times of physical or mental stress.
The regulation of cortisol theoretically prevents the stress hormones from causing fatigue, since excess cortisol affects the immune system and counteracts the rise of insulin.
Benefits and properties of the rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola benefits include diverse areas of application, duly demonstrated in more than one hundred and ninety clinical trials, to which we can add theoretical benefits that still haven't been tested under specific and controlled trials, but which are backed up by researchers.
The list of rhodiola rosea benefits is very extensive:
It helps combat physical and mental exhaustion
It reduces stress and anxiety
It helps keep all neurotransmitters balanced
It keeps the stress response system balanced by limiting the excessive release of cortisol, the stress hormone
It helps to treat depression and neurosis
It increases energy, endurance and perseverance
It facilitates concentration
It promotes mental clarity
It improves memory and intellectual performance
It helps fight depression and psychological stress
It improves sexual activity
It promotes healthy sleep
It improves performance in sports (as it improves physical endurance)
It shortens physical recovery after strenuous workouts
It prevents seasonal catarrhal diseases
It stimulates the production of natural defensive cells (cells that protect against infection)
It increases the resistance of the body to physical and mental stress and negative environmental influences
It increases the energy of cells for the production of ATP and CP (the body's fuel)
It is a powerful antioxidant, helping to fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage in our bodies
It is a general tonic against ageing for older people
It helps recovery after disease
It stimulates the metabolism of fats and converts them into energy
It has a positive effect on those professions that require greater attention, such as truck drivers, air traffic controllers and pilots
Compared with other adaptogens, it has a more rapid onset and a longer-lasting effect
1. Rhodiola rosea extract helps to treat asthenic disorders
Rhodiola rosea is used to relieve asthenic disorders caused by intense physical or intellectual effort, leading to the flu and other diseases. Asthenic disorders include insomnia, deterioration in performance, poor appetite, irritability, high blood pressure, fatigue and headaches.
2. Rhodiola rosea improves physical and mental performance
Studies with rhodiola rosea have demonstrated that it shortens recovery time after strenuous workouts and that it improves concentration and memory. Clinical trials have also shown that Rhodiola rosea improves memory and concentration over a long period of time.
A clinical study evaluated fifty students at random for twenty days, which were supplied 50 mg of rhodiola rosea extract per day or a placebo. The subjects who consumed rhodiola extract showed statistically significant improvement in their physical condition and their psychomotor and intellectual performance.
3. Rhodiola rosea reduces stress
Stress manifests itself in different areas. We have all had to fight emotional stress at least once and we know how bad we felt at those moments. Anyone who does sports knows the effects of physical stress on the body. Overuse of the muscles can have positive results, but physical stress on the body eventually take its toll.
We also must not forget the environmental stress to which we are exposed every day, through pollution, smoke, contaminants in food and water and toxins from plastic bottles. In short, our body is attacked by various stress factors.
Any kind of stress has adverse effects on the human body. Our body releases cortisol when we are stressed. If we are exposed to a lot of stress there is an excess of cortisol which can lead to many physical problems.
When we are exposed to stress a complex sequence of actions in our chemical and neurological system is activated. Our body responds to it immediately to deal with the threat that triggers the stress factor.
We can compare this to the red zone in the tachometer of our car. We usually travel at a normal speed, but when we have to dodge another car coming quickly towards us we increase the pressure on the accelerator and the tachometer enters the red zone in order to prevent a catastrophe.
In the same way that it is bad to constantly drive in the red zone, it is also harmful for our bodies to have to constantly combat stress. Rhodiola rosea calms our stress response and helps the parasympathetic nervous system.
Stress can damage our mitochondria and reduce cellular energy. Rhodiola rosea can help increase our cellular energy.
4. Rhodiola rosea helps to alleviate depression
We all know that stress also has a severe psychological impact on the organism. Stress leads to feelings of depression and unhappiness. Rhodiola rosea stimulates the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are vital in making us feel happy and active.
Rhodiola rosea is known in the United States after the Swedish herbal Institute carried out a comprehensive study to evaluate the use of rhodiola to combat depression. The results of this study concluded that rhodiola rosea can combat mild depression and anxiety.
During the trial about a hundred and fifty people who were suffering from depression, were supplied with rhodiola rosea for a month. At the end of this period, two-thirds of the participants had completely eliminated the clinical symptoms of depression and found that they had also become more active and sociable. The general weakness that they were suffering from had disappeared.
5. Rhodiola, heart and cancer research
Some studies have demonstrated that rhodiola can be used for the treatment of heart disease, which is usually activated by stress. Its mechanisms include the ability to reduce the levels of corticosteroids and catecholamines, released by the adrenal gland when a person is subjected to stress.
A series of double blind tests, controlled with a placebo, jointly carried out by Swedish and Russian researchers have demonstrated the positive effects of rhodiola on the heart.
6. Rhodiola rosea helps in the fight against tumours
It was found that rhodiola can have a beneficial effect against tumours, fortifying the body against toxins. This is due to the variety of antioxidant compounds that have been found in rhodiola rosea.
Rhodiola extracts have had considerable success in the fight against free radicals. Studies are currently being done to assess if a rhodiola rosea treatment could be applied in cancer cases, or at least be used to help patients during chemotherapy.
7. Rhodiola rosea strengthens the immune system
Rhodiola rosea stimulates the immune system in two different ways:
Through specific and direct stimulation of immune defence: by stimulating one of the most important types of immune cells, NK cells, natural killers, which destroy our body's infected cells. Rhodiola rosea improves the immune system through the resistance of the t-cells. Rhodiola increases the power of the body's resistance against toxins that may accumulate during the development of an infection.
To make one less susceptible to stress: scientists have discovered that stress suppresses the activity of the immune system and destroys our resistance to bacterial and viral attacks. Due to the natural effects of NK cells with tumours, it has been shown that rhodiola rosea can increase immunity by preventing the elimination of B cells, which can happen under stress. When we are under stress, a lot of the body's energy is wasted with no specific direction. If we are exposed to chronic stress, our body loses energy continuously, the result of which is a reduced immune response and a deterioration of health. Rhodiola rosea extract protects and stimulates the immune system through self-regulation or the metabolic balance of the body.
Better understanding stress, the three stages of its development
1. Alarm phase
When there is a stress factor the body triggers a sudden release of internal hormones: corticosteroids and catecholamines. If the stress is intense it may damage the body's self-regulation mechanisms. By taking adaptogens it is possible to achieve an 'acclimation' to the situation.
2. Familiarisation or adjustment phase
If the stress factor continues (in sports that involve intensive training, for example) our body learns to tolerate the stressful stimulus, get used to it and to increase its resistance against it. The adjustment period is usually a safe stage. The longer we stay in the familiarisation phase the better.
3. Exhaustion phase
This occurs when the body can no longer combat stress and gives up, or symptoms appear that worsen this exhaustion phase.
Stress-related diseases can be triggered in the alarm phase but are manifested mainly in the exhaustion phase, when the body can no longer combat stress. They usually appear in the third phase, after some months or years. It all depends on the duration of the adjustment period.
Sometimes the body can completely avoid this third phase and keep the stress under control. It is possible to achieve this by taking adaptogens. This can help to keep the adjustment period going for as long as possible.
By taking rhodiola rosea extract it becomes much easier to fight stress. If you are taking regularly rhodiola, the initial alarm phase will easily pass into the familiarisation phase. Rhodiola rosea lets this adjustment phase continue for much longer, or even on a permanent basis. This will prevent your body from slipping dangerously into the extreme exhaustion phase.
Does rhodiola rosea have side effects or interactions?
If taken in high doses, rhodiola royal may have some minor side effects, such as increased sleep and anxiety. However, many experts emphasise that there are more positive effects than negative. rhodiola royal can be combined with most medicines, in contrast with MAO inhibitors.