CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer
Table of Contents
- 1 Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- 2 About this Herb:
- 3 What is Rhodiola?
- 4 Benefits and properties of Rhodiola:
- 5 When and how to take it?
- 6 Safety and side effects
- 7 Cycling
- 8 Closing thoughts
Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- Name: Rhodiola
- Pin Yin: Hong Jing Tian,
- Latin: Radix rhodiola sacra (Tibetan variety) Rhodiola himalensis, Rhodiola crenulata (Chinese varieties) and Rhodiola rosea (Chinese and Russian variety)
- Taste: Earthy bitter
- Color: Brown
- Constitution: Neutral to slightly warm (Yang)
- Builds: Jing, Qi and Shen
About this Herb:
Rhodiola has been on my list for quite some time since it comes recommended by 2 of my favorite coaches, Mike Mahler and Charles Poliquin.
My first try was in capsule form (Rhodiola rosea) and was quite an interesting experience. I remember it was a Saturday morning and I was feeling so relaxed that I actually got a bit concerned. You see, adaptogens have different reactions in different systems so you never know exactly what you are getting. On the next day, the reaction was not as severe and I was feeling normal.
I tried the same experiment a month later and I had the same effect. I was disturbingly calm (I am usually quite an intense guy) and I could think very clear. On some days it felt like a natural ‘calm’ and on other days, it was pure anxiety.
Then I found out that my dose was quite high (500mg). I lowered the dose and voila. No more anxiety, just pure focus. So I strongly recommend you start with half my initial dose (250mg or less) so that you can experience the calmness and focus without the anxiety.
Overall, it did give me a calm energy with a lot of focus. After that I wanted to tincture it in order to combine it with other adaptogens.
Below, you will find more details about this herb, its benefits, side effects, precautions and everything you need to know before using it.
What is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola is an herb used for over 2.000 years from the people of China and Tibet. In Tibet, it is considered a sacred plant as it is used by monks to support the immune system, give vitality, protect from diseases but also enhance their spirituality, wisdom and longevity.
There are 4 varieties of Rhodiola:
- the Tibetan Rhodiola (Rhodiola sacra and Rhodiola himalensis),
- the Chinese Rhodiola (Rhodiola crenulata)
- the Russian/European variety (Rhodiola rosea).
The Russians dedicated a lot of time studying Rhodiola and found it to be very beneficial, especially, for its Olympic sports and space exploration applications (during the cold war). It was also used frequently by the Vikings for its magnificent properties.
However, the first European documented encounter with this herb (for medicinal uses) dates back to Ancient Greece. It was 77A.D when Physician Dioscorides found that this amazing herb grew in the mountains of Greek Macedonia and had marked it down as Rodia riza (the root of this herb smelled like a rose, which in Greek is rhodon – Ῥόδον’).
Even though the Chinese version is a lot more potent than the European/Russian variety, even the mild European version can be very strong for a lot of beginners. This is why starting with a very small dose is an absolute must.
Rhodiola contains essential amino acids and minerals and is loaded with a plethora of active ingredients such as:
- phenylpropanoids(rosavin, rosin and rosarin),
- phenylethanols (salidroside/rhodioloside, tyrosol),
- flavanoids (rodiolin, rodionin, rodiosin, acetylrodalgin and tricin),
- monoterpernes (rosiridol and rosaridin),
- triterpenes (daucosterol and beta-sitosterol),
- phenolic acids (chlorogenic, hydroxycinnamic) and
- gallic acids (tannins).
Benefits and properties of Rhodiola:
Summarizing the many benefits of Rhodiola herb:
- It has anti-aging properties and can assist in longevity by optimizing oxygen uptake and reducing stress.
- It can support the nervous system and aid in the regeneration of nerves.
- It can help decrease high levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
- It is serotonergic, which means it can increase serotonin levels in the brain and hippocampus. Higher serotonin levels mean better relaxation and also helps with addictive behaviors (like smoking).
- It can improve memory and cognition by lowering stress levels. When stress is lower, its oxidative damage is prevented and therefore cognition states are preserved better.
- It can decrease fatigue in people with high stress or those exposed to high workloads (either working in an office or in a highly active job or sport).
- It can also reduce cortisol levels in the body by optimizing the intake and usage of oxygen.
- It can help with depression and improve the sense of overall well-being.
- It is a potent antioxidant that can prevent bone loss and protect cardiovascular health due to its active compounds (tyrosol and salidroside).
- It can lower blood pressure which can help people with diabetes type II and people with hypertension.
- It has shown mixed results in its ability to boost athletic performance. Some subjects responded only to high levels of the herb while smaller doses did not improve performance.
- It can stimulate testosterone production by reducing the oxidative damage in the the gonads as an antioxidant.
- It is also a potent anti-inflammatory and can support aged individuals as shown in studies done in mice.
When and how to take it?
Since Rhodiola is a very powerful plant there are certain rules regarding its safe usage which should not be taken lightly:
Rhodiola works best when you are healthy by improving the mechanisms of one’s body.
- Taking Rhodiola while having medical conditions or being sick is contraindicated as it can interfere with medication and your body’s ability to heal.
- A little can go a long way with this herb. A higher dose can also lead to hyperstimulation.
- It should not be taken at night as it can cause insomnia.
- Last but not least, it you should NOT be taken it with stimulants (coffee and other substances) as it can cause over-stimulation.
It is best to start with a small dose in the morning on an empty stomach and avoid taking anything with sugar for at least 30 minutes as it can cause jitteriness.
If you experience any kind of anxiety you must reduce the dose or stop it altogether.
Alcohol-based Tincture: In this way, you can extract many of the nutrients found in Rhodiola. Hold the dose in your mouth (under the tongue) for 1 to 3 minutes until it gets absorbed. Then you can swallow it.
The tincture can also be taken in a glass of water. Wait a couple of minute for the alcohol to evaporate and then drink the tincture.
Tablets and capsules: Rhodiola can be taken in tablets or capsules.
Powder: Hold the powder in your mouth for 5 minutes.
The best times to take depends on your cortisol levels:
- if you have low cortisol in the morning, then you take it early in the morning on an empty stomach.
- if you have low cortisol in the afternoon, then you take it in the afternoon on an empty stomach (but not later in the evening).
Safety and side effects
Rhodiola has been deemed as safe when used short term and has been shown to have no toxicity. But its safety has not been determined for long term usage (more than 6-10 weeks) and there are no known side effects other than overstimulation and insomnia when taken at night.
You should not take Rhodiola if you:
- Are taking antidepressants or other types of medication (including but not limited to antihypertensive drugs, immunosuppressive drugs or anticoagulant medication).
- Have any psychological or mental condition such as depression, schizophrenia and other without consulting your therapist and doctor.
- Have any hormonal problem or medical condition including but not limited to cancer, diabetes or undergoing chemo treatment: Check with your doctor before using Rhodiola if you have any of the above conditions as he is the only person who can define if using it is a good idea or not.
- Are taking blood pressure medication as it can interfere with the dosage.
- Have low blood pressure as there is a high risk of hypoglycemia from using Rhodiola.
- Are scheduled for an operation, organ transplant or you just underwent one. Certain ingredients may interfere with the sedation used during surgery, rejection of the organ or interfere with healing and cause internal bleeding.
- Have allergies to this specific herb or any of its ingredients.
The best thing you can do before taking any herb supplement is to test it. If you want to be safe while using herbs I strongly urge you to read my other article on how to test an herb for allergies and intolerances.
Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:
Avoid using this herb/adaptogen if you have any medical condition or take any kind of medication without consulting with your doctor first.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Since there is not enough studies performed to determine the full safety of this product, pregnant women or breastfeeding women should avoid using this product.
Use for a maximum of up to 4 weeks and then take 4 weeks off. Repeat cycle after that.
While there are no side effects or toxicity associated with long term consumption, I would not use any herb for long periods of time without a break in order to keep them being effective and protect the body from accumulation of other toxins unrelated to the herb itself.
Over the past 20 years I have experimented with literally hundreds of herbs, supplements (and other natural products) and was finally able to discover the right doses for amazing results.
If you wish to learn more about the dosages that I use with my clients for different purposes (better health, hormonal balance, stress management, testosterone boost and more) or how I combine this herb/supp with others, leave a comment below or reach out to me for a consultation through the “Hire me” link.
Rhodiola is a powerful adaptogen but it must be taken seriously since the wrong dose can give you anxiety or catatonia. It was too strong for me but I do recommend it to people who are less sensitive or prone to anxiety. It is great for reducing fatigue, increasing your resistance to stress, decreasing cortisol levels, increasing focus and finally boosting libido.
Did you ever try Rhodiola and what was your experience with it? Which type did you use? Let me know in the comments below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
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by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
- Dietary supplement with a combination of Rhodiola crenulata and Ginkgo biloba enhances the endurance performance in healthy volunteers.
- Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles.
- Evaluation of Rhodiola crenulata and Rhodiola rosea for management of type II diabetes and hypertension.
- Rhodiola crenulata and Its Bioactive Components, Salidroside and Tyrosol, Reverse the Hypoxia-Induced Reduction of Plasma-Membrane-Associated Na,K-ATPase Expression via Inhibition of ROS-AMPK-PKC Pathway.
- Rhodiola crenulata root ameliorates derangements of glucose and lipid metabolism in a rat model of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review.
- The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.
- Does Rhodiola rosea possess ergogenic properties?
- Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy.