Rhodiola Rosea — A Curiously Positive Adaptogen

Imagine if there were a non-toxic plant that could improve your stamina, endurance, and sexual performance.  You could ingest this plant in a tiny capsule with your breakfast, and not only would it confer the benefits I just mentioned, but it would also lower your physical and mental stress.  By counteracting the physical effects of stress, the plant would keep you vital and stave off the fatigue that we typically associate with aging.  

One more thing: imagine that eating this plant will have no known negative side effects.

Many benefits, with little to no risks.

As it turns out, there is such a plant, and it’s called Rhodiola rosea. * This herb thrives in high altitudes in Arctic regions of Europe and Asia.  Of all the herbs I have come to love in my fifteen-plus years of study in botanical medicine, Rhodiola rosea is my favorite.

Rhodiola is an adaptogen.  This means that it offsets the biological effects of mental and physical stress.  Rhodiola is the best-studied adaptogen, and over twenty years of clinical trials have demonstrated its multiple physiological and psychological and anti-stress benefits.*

Rhodiola has been found to have strong anti-fatigue effects after repeated doses. * For example a well-designed study in Phytomedicine in which Rhodiola rosea was given to 56 young physicians on night call.  (In this kind of work, as you can imagine, there’s a tendency for physical and mental performance to drop.)  Researchers found that physicians who took Rhodiola showed significant improvements in memory, concentration, and fatigue after just two weeks of supplementation (Darbynian et al. 2000).  In 2009, another group of researchers examined the anti-fatigue effects of Rhodiola on people who suffered from stress-related fatigue.  They found that repeated administration of Rhodiola increased mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate, and decreased cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome  (Olsson et al. 2009). 

How does Rhodiola work?  A study of rats found that rats who had taken Rhodiola were able to swim for 25% longer before becoming exhausted, compared with rodents that did not receive rhodiola. Researchers concluded that Rhodiola enhances exercise capacity by activating the production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), vital biological energy source (Abidov et al. 2003).  Rhodiola was also given to a group of healthy volunteers after exhausting exercise, and it reduced levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, and creatinine kinase, a marker of muscle damage. In this way, Rhodiola seems to help produce more energy during exercise while also protecting muscle tissue (Abidov et al. 2004). *

The use of Rhodiola is backed by other health experts as well.  According to Richard P. Brown, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and author of The Rhodiola Revolution, this herb has the ability to boost libido and may even help premature ejaculation (WebMD).  Philip R. Muskin, MD, also professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, states, “Rhodiola appears to have a beneficial effect in enhancing sexual function," he tells WebMD. “It improves satisfaction, pleasure, erections, response to orgasms.” *

As much as I like to think that there’s always a “catch,” and that there are always hidden risks involved with any substance marketed as helpful and harmless, there is no documented risk to taking the golden root. And that is why I recommend Rhodiola in a comprehensive formula to many of my male patients. 

Be Well,

Dr. Geo



Abidov M, Crendal F, Grachev S, Seifulla R, Ziegenfuss T. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2003 Dec;136(6):585-7.

Abidov M, Grachev S, Seifulla RD, Ziegenfuss TN. Extract of Rhodiola rosea radix reduces the level of C-reactive protein and creatinine kinase in the blood. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2004 Jul;138(1):63-4.

Brown RP, Gerbarg PL (w/Graham B). The Rhodiola Revolution: Transform Your Health with the Herbal Breakthrough of the 21st Century. Emmaus, PA: Rodale; 2004.

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.

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 Feb;75(2):105-12. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

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.

Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:95-105.

WebMD http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/news/20040505/natural-sex-boosters-gaining-ground

* Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.