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 an “adaptogen” to help the body adapt to and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress. There is good quality, though limited, evidence for these benefits. Rhodiola 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

Rhodiola rosea has a long, extensive history of use as a botanical medicine in Europe, Asia, and the US to prevent and treat a great variety of common conditions including fatigue, depression, and anxiety. It is also used as an adaptogen. Rhodiola possesses various biological activities in the nervous system, including protective effects in Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, aging and addiction.


At this time, like many natural health products, evidence for these benefits is limited. The following information summarizes recent research findings regarding the benefits most commonly attributed to Rhodiola.


Rhodiola as an Adaptogen

Rhodiola’s established benefits for stress and fatigue have earned its reputation as an “adaptogen.” An adaptogen can be defined as “a substance that improves responses to stress and helps the body adapt by normalizing physiological processes in times of increased stress.”

Rhodiola has been categorized as an adaptogen due to its ability to increase resistance to a variety of stressors and help support the nervous system, provide mood regulation, enhance mental clarity and work performance and stabilize the sleep cycle. Even a single administration of Rhodiola has been shown to increase mental performance and the capacity for physical work. Rhodiola can work within 30 minutes of administration and continue for at least 4-6 hours.


Acting on a part of the body’s stress-system, the sympatho-adrenal-system (SAS), Rhodiola provides a rapid response to a stressor. It sustains levels of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is thought to play a role in the body’s stress response and helps to regulate sleep, alertness, and blood pressure.

For more information about adaptogens, see Ashwagandha.


Clinical Research – Depression, Anxiety and Stress

A recent study (2015) evaluated the impact of a Rhodiola rosea extract on self-reported anxiety, stress, cognition, and other mood symptoms. Eighty mildly anxious participants were provided Rhodiola rosea (one 200 mg tablet (Vitano®) taken before breakfast and one tablet before lunch) for a period of 14 days.  Relative to placebo, the Rhodiola study group demonstrated significant improvements in overall mood with a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression at 14 days.


A contemporary review (2016) of animal and humans studies evaluated Rhodiola’s anti-stress and antidepressant properties. The authors reported that Rhodiola extracts and its purified constituent, salidroside, produce a variety of  interactions with several networks of neuroendocrine-immune and neurotransmitter receptor systems involved in depression.  The study concluded that in short-term studies Rhodiola has antidepressant action which appears to be safe and well-tolerated.


Another study compared the antidepressant benefits of Rhodiola and sertraline (Zoloft), an SSRI commonly prescribed for anxiety and depression. Although Rhodiola produced less antidepressant effect compared with sertraline, it was better tolerated with significantly fewer side effects. In conclusion, Rhodiola may possess a more favorable risk to benefit ratio than sertraline for individuals with mild to moderate depression.


Clinical Research – Fatigue

Preliminary clinical research indicates 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.


However, a systematic review article published (2012) concluded that most research regarding Rhodiola’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.



Clinical studies report Rhodiola-only products ranging in dose from 50 mg to 660 mg per capsule, to a maximum of 1500 mg/day, suggesting a large margin of safety. Rhodiola extract (SHR-5) 340 mg once or twice daily significantly reduced symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression after 6 weeks of treatment and decreased overall depressive symptoms, emotional instability, insomnia, and somatization. 


Studies reporting a positive effect of Rhodiola on physical performance reported doses of 200 mg/day up to 680 mg/day and those reporting a positive effect on mental fatigue reported doses between 100–57
6 mg/day. However, due to the inadequacy of  studies, no definitive dosage recommendations can be made at this time.


Toxicity and Safety

Rhodiola typically has few or no side effects, unlike traditional stimulants that impair sleep, cause rebound sleepiness and have addiction, tolerance and abuse potential. Although no contraindications with other herbal or prescription medications have been identified, it is important to consider that Rhodiola may have an additive effect with other substances that have stimulant properties.


Mechanism of Action

Rhodiola rosea extracts contain about 1% salidroside, the main bioactive component in Rhodiola rosea. The proposed mechanisms underlying the potential protective effects of salidroside involvement include the regulation of oxidative stress response, inflammation, apoptosis, hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, neurotransmission, neural regeneration, and the cholinergic system.


While Rhodiola appears to have multiple benefits which are likely to reflect more than one mechanism of action, a recent study shows  Rhodiola 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 Rhodiola may raise dopamine levels. Rhodiola is also a component of SynaptaGenX (previously marketed as 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 Rhodiola, 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 Rhodiola rosea.


Although many preclinical studies have demonstrated clear neuroprotective effects of salidroside, none of the salidroside preparations have so far entered medical clinical trials, and there has been no definitive clinical evidence to confirm the efficacy of salidroside. Therefore, large controlled clinical trials are needed in order to better direct the clinical application of salidroside.



R. rosea – Overviews

  1. Rosenroot (Rhodiola Rosea)- Traditional Use, Chemical Composition, Pharmacology and Clinical Efficacy – 2010
  2. The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms. – PubMed – NCBI
  3. The Effect of Acute Rhodiola rosea Ingestion on Exercise Heart Rate, Substrate Utilisation, Mood State, and Perceptions of Exertion, Arousal, and Pleasure:Displeasure in Active Men – 2014
  4. Pharmacological activities, mechanisms of action, and safety of salidroside in the central nervous system – 2018
  5. Rosenroot (Rhodiola) – Potential Applications in Aging-related Diseases 0 2019
  6. Phytochemical Characterization of an Adaptogenic Preparation from Rhodiola heterodonta – 2013
  7. Chemistry and Pharmacology of Syringin, A Novel Bioglycoside – A Review – 2015

Rhodiola rosea – Anxiety

  1. Plant-based Medicines for Anxiety Disorders, Part 2- A Review of Clinical Studies With Supporting Preclinical Evidence – 2013
  2. Plant-based Medicines for Anxiety Disorders, Part 1- A Review of Preclinical Studies – 2013

R. rosea – Depression

  1. Rhodiola rosea L. as a putative botanical antidepressant. – 2016 PubMed – NCBI
  2. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder – A randomized placebo-controlled trial – 2015
  3. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression – 2007


R. rosea – Fatigue

  1. Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue – a systematic review – 2012
  2. The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. – PubMed – NCBI
  3. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatm… – PubMed – NCBI
  4. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work – 2003
  5. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue – A study of SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty – 2000


Rhodiola rosea – Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

  1. Salidroside Attenuates High-Fat Diet-Induced Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease via AMPK-Dependent TXNIP:NLRP3 Pathway – 2018

R. rosea – MAO Inhibition

  1. Monoamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots – 2009

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