Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is an herb that grows in the Arctic areas of eastern Siberia. Use of rhodiola tea is a popular tradition in Eastern Europe and Asia as an energy booster. Rhodiola has a reputation for stimulating the nervous system, reducing depression, and decreasing fatigue, traits that have earned it to be categorized as an adaptogen, which means it reportedly has the ability to help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress.
Rhodiola and Sexual Function
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. At the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in 2004, Brown noted that rhodiola “probably works on the dopamine system in the brain which is very important to sexual functioning and libido.” (WebMD)
Rhodiola and Prostate Cancer
Possible anticancer properties of rhodiola were investigated in one study, in which researchers found that two compounds isolated from rhodiola—rhodioflavonoside and gosspetin-7-O-L-rhamnopyranoside—exhibited some activity against prostate cancer cell lines. (Ming 2005)
Rhodiola, Fatigue, and Stress
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 56 physicians assigned to the night shift evaluated the impact of rhodiola on mental acuity. Participants received either placebo or rhodiola extract (170 mg daily) for 2 weeks. At the end of the study, the doctors who took rhodiola maintained a higher level of mental function as determined by tests, such as mental arithmetic, than did controls. (Darbinyan 2000)
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 40 students who were undergoing exams and assigned half of them to a low-dose of rhodiola extract (100 mg daily) for 20 days. Results showed that some of the students who took rhodiola experienced modest benefits regarding fatigue and mental function, while others showed no significant advantage. The authors believe a higher dose of rhodiola may have produced more positive results. (Spasov 2000)
In a randomized trial that included 161 male military cadents, researchers used a double-blind, placebo-controlled format to determine the impact of one-time use of either 370 mg or 555 mg of rhodiola extract on sleep deprivation and stress. Investigators reported that rhodiola was more effective than placebo at fighting the effects of fatigue. (Shevtsov 2003)
A total of 60 individuals who had stress-related fatigue were assigned to take either four tablets of standardized rhodiola extract (SHR-5; 576 mg/day) or four tablets of placebo daily for 28 days. The authors concluded that repeated administration of rhodiola extract SHR-5 was effective in fighting fatigue and increased mental performance, especially the ability to concentrate. Rhodiola also decreased cortisol (a stress hormone) response to awakening stress in burnout patients. (Olsson 2009)
How to Take Rhodiola
Rhodiola extracts are standardized to their content of rhodioloside. Most published studies on rhodiola involve proprietary products, and so results among different studies may not be comparable. Consult your healthcare provider before taking rhodiola.
Darbinyan V 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; 7:365-71.
Ming DS et al. Bioactive compounds from Rhodiola rosea (Crassulaceae). Phytother Res 2005 Sep; 19(9): 740-43
Olsson EM et al. 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.
Shevtsov VA, 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.
Spasov AA 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.