Accurate Education – Rhodiola Rosea

 Rhodiola Rosea (R. Rosea)

“Rhodiola rosea” is also known arctic root, roseroot, rosenroot, golden root and hong jing tian.

Rhodiola Rosea is a natural remedy commonly used for depression and increasing energy, stamina, strength and mental capacity; and as a so-called “adaptogen” to help the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress. There is good quality, though limited, evidence for these benefits. R. Rosea is generally considered safe and well tolerated.



Adaptogens are “substances, compounds, herbs or practices result in stabilization of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis, for example, decreased cellular sensitivity to stress.

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Rhodiola Rosea (R. rosea)

There are a great number of clinical benefits believed to be associated with Rhodiola Rosea (R. rosea). At this time, like many natural health products, evidence is limited and insufficient for the benefits attributed to R. rosea. The following information summarizes recent research findings regarding the most common benefits of R. rosea.


Depression, Anxiety and Stress

A recent trial (2015) evaluated the impact of a Rhodiola rosea L. extract on self-reported anxiety, stress, cognition, and other mood symptoms. Eighty mildly anxious participants were randomized into two different groups of either Rhodiola rosea L (2 × 200 mg dose Vitano®, 1 tablet taken before breakfast and 1tablet before lunch) or a control condition (no treatment). Self-report measures and cognitive tests were completed at four testing sessions over a period of 14 days. Relative to the controls, the experimental group demonstrated a significant reduction in self-reported, anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression at 14 days and a significant improvements in total mood.


A contemporary review (2016) of animal and humans studies looking at R. rosea’s anti-stress and antidepressant properties reported R. rosea extracts and its purified constituent, salidroside, to produce a variety of  interactions with several networks of neuroendocrine-immune and neurotransmitter receptor systems likely to be involved in the pathophysiology of depression. A wide variety of studies with laboratory animals suggests the presence of several biochemical and pharmacological antidepressant-like actions. Human studies suggest a possible antidepressant action for R. rosea extract which appears to be safe and well-tolerated in short-term studies.


A recent study compared the antidepressant benefits of R. rosea and sertraline (Zoloft), an SSRI commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression. Although R. rosea produced less antidepressant effect compared with sertraline, it also resulted in significantly fewer side effects and was better tolerated. These findings suggest that R. rosea, although less effective than sertraline, may possess a more favorable risk to benefit ratio for individuals with mild to moderate depression.


Preliminary clinical research shows that taking a specific rhodiola extract (SHR-5) 340 mg once daily or 340 mg twice daily significantly reduces symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression after 6 weeks of treatment. Rhodiola decreased overall depressive symptoms, emotional instability, insomnia, and somatization; however, it did not seem to improve feelings of self-esteem.



A systematic review article recently published (2012)concluded that most research regarding R. rosea’s effectiveness for fatigue is contradictory. While some evidence suggests that the herb may be helpful for enhancing physical performance and alleviating mental fatigue, methodological flaws limit accurate assessment of effectiveness. More research is needed to determine true benefits of R. rosea for physical or mental fatigue.


Preliminary clinical research shows that rhodiola might decrease fatigue in stressful situations. Several preliminary clinical trials have evaluated a specific rhodiola extract in various doses and populations. Taking 50 mg twice daily reduced mental fatigue and improved subjective well-being in students during an examination period. Taking 144 mg twice daily for 7 days reduced fatigue, but not stress, in university students. In night shift physicians, 170 mg daily reduced feelings of fatigue and improved mental performance. In military cadets, a single dose of 370-555 mg after 24 hours without sleep improved tests of mental processing and short-term memory. In patients with stress-related fatigue, 576 mg daily for 28 days decreased symptoms of fatigue and increased attention. However, there were no improvements in quality-of-life or symptoms of depression.



Clinical studies report R. rosea-only products ranging in dose from 50 mg to 660 mg per capsule, to a max- imum of 1500 mg/day, suggesting a large margin of safety. Studies reporting a positive effect of R. rosea on physical performance reported doses of 200 mg/day and 680 mg/day and those reporting a positive effect on mental fatigue reported doses between 100–576 mg/day. However, due to the inadequacy of  studies, no definitive dosage recommendations can be made at this time.


Toxicity and Safety

R. rosea has demonstrated a very low occurrence of side effects and low clinical toxicity. Although no contraindications with other herbal or prescription medications have been identified, it is important to consider that R. rosea may have an additive effect with other substances exhibiting stimulant properties. Like many natural health products, the likelihood of adequate reporting of side effects may be lower than conventional medications.


Mechanism of Action

R. rosea appears to have multiple benefits which are likely to reflect more than one mechanism of action. However, a recent study shows  R. rosea to have inhibitory effects on the monoamine oxidases (MAO-A and MAO-B). Monoamine oxidase (MAO)-A regulates the metabolic breakdown of the monamines adrenaline, noradrenaline and serotonin in the central nervous system and peripheral tissues.


MAO-A inhibitors have proven to be effective in the pharmacological treatment of depression. MAO-B is an enzyme involved in the breakdown of dopamine, thus R. rosea may raise dopamine levels. R. rosea is also a component of Synaptamine, a medical food use in the management of Reward Deficiency Syndrome which is associated with suboptimal dopamine levels in the reward centers of the brain. Several studies have shown that MAO-B is implicated in aging-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.


Given that studies frequently appear contradictory or uncertain regarding the effects of R. rosea, it may be due to genetic variants in the activity of the MAO enzymes indicating that there may be a genetic basis for the extent of an individual’s response to MAO inhibition and R. rosea. Further research ought to clarify this.


Emphasis on Education


Accurate Clinic promotes patient education as the foundation of it’s medical care. In Dr. Ehlenberger’s integrative approach to patient care, including conventional and complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments, he may encourage or provide advice about the use of supplements. However, the specifics of choice of supplement, dosing and duration of treatment should be individualized through discussion with Dr. Ehlenberger. The following information and reference articles are presented to provide the reader with some of the latest research to facilitate evidence-based, informed decisions regarding the use of conventional as well as CAM treatments.


For medical-legal reasons, access to these links is limited to patients enrolled in an Accurate Clinic medical program.


Should you wish more information regarding any of the subjects listed – or not listed –  here, please contact Dr. Ehlenberger. He has literally thousands of published articles to share on hundreds of topics associated with pain management, weight loss, nutrition, addiction recovery and emergency medicine. It would take years for you to read them, as it did him.


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