Adaptogens are a group of plants that can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress and rhodiola is one of the most effective in this family.
This unique herb grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Asia and Eastern Europe.
Historically the Vikings used rhodiola to enhance physical strength and the Sherpa people used it to climb at high altitudes including Mt. Everest.
The Russians have used this herb extensively over the past 70 years mostly for improving work performance, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and increasing athletic endurance.
Rhodiola has been proven to have four major health benefits including:
- Burning Belly Fat
- Increased Energy and Athletic Performance
- Lowering Cortisol
- Fighting Depression and Improving Brain Function
Let me start off by going over how rhodiola can help you burn fat for energy.
1. Burn More Belly Fat with Rhodiola
One of the many incredible characteristics of rhodiola is that it helps your body burn stored fat as fuel. Rhodiola contains an active compound called rosavin that has been proven to trigger a fat burning response in your body.
Rosavin works by stimulating an enzyme called hormone-sensitive lipase which has the ability to breakdown fat that is stored in adipose tissue (belly area). Also, human clinical studies found that if you combine taking rhodiola extract with doing moderate exercise the breakdown of belly fat increases even more.
A controlled placebo study done on 130 overweight patients at Georgian State Hospital showed that taking rhodiola rosea extract daily led to a mean weight loss of 19 pounds (11% reduction in body fat), compared to only 8 pounds of loss by the placebo group eating the exact same low calorie diet.1
We all know that exercise especially interval exercise like burst training can increase fat loss, but if you want an edge taking rhodiola along with exercise can accelerate your weight loss efforts.
2. Increase Your Energy and Athletic Performance
Rhodiola can increase your stamina and endurance by increasing your red blood cell count. Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen to muscles, and having a higher count can dramatically improve an athlete’s performance and delay fatigue. Rhodiola works by boosting EPO also known as erythropoetin which stimulates RBC production.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in 2004 rhodiola has anti-inflammatory benefits to cause rapid recovery of muscles and improved endurance.2
Another study performed on rats found that supplementing with rhodiola could increase endurance by allowing the animals to swim 25% longer. The improvements happened because rhodiola was found to increase synthesis of ATP which is essential for cellular energy.3
But you don’t have to be an athlete to experience the benefits of rhodiola. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, business executive, or student rhodiola has been shown to increase workplace performance and the decrease the effects that a lack of sleep and rest can have on your body.4
According to author and naturopathic physician Tori Hudson, he prescribes rhodiola to his patients for several reasons including: adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, reducing recovery time from workouts and enhancing athletic performance.
So if you are looking for a natural way to boost energy and increase athletic performance rhodiola may be for you.
3. Lower Cortisol
Rhodiola can calm your body when your system goes into a “fight or flight” mode from everyday stressors. When the hormone cortisol stays high for a long period of time from emotional or physical stress it can cause your body to experience:
- lowered blood glucose response
- abdominal weight gain
- thyroid issues
- hormone imbalance
- decreased memory
- weakened immunity
By keeping cortisol levels balanced you are improving your health in multiple ways especially when it comes to anti-aging. When cortisol levels are high for long periods it will cause you to age faster and can leave you exhausted. One of the main reasons people turn to adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola is to help balance cortisol levels to slow the aging process and look and feel their best.5
4. Beat Depression and Improve Brain Function
Another amazing benefit of supplementing with rhodiola is it’s been shown to improve the health of your brain and fight depression.
Rhodiola increases the sensitivity of your neurons (cells of your brain and nervous system) including two neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. These two neurotransmitters are known for increasing focus, memory, pleasure, and improving mood.
Many doctors of functional medicine prescribe rhodiola as an effective alternative to anti-depressant medications. This works because rhodiola increases dopamine sensitivity which has been shown to improve mood and also help fight food cravings and addictions.
In a clinical trail with 150 individuals suffering from depression, participants were given rhodiola rosea for one month. At the end of the trail two-thirds of the group had full remission of depression symptoms and daytime weakness had also greatly improved.6
Also, some physicians have started recommending rhodiola for ADD and ADHD because of it’s ability to improve focus.
Rhodiola is gaining a reputation as one of the most powerful herbs to support anti-aging, fat burning, increased energy, focus and improved mood.
The recommended supplemental dose of rhodiola rosea extract with rosavin is around 250-500mg 2x daily taken 15 minutes before meals.
- (1) Zakir Ramazanov, Z. et al. (1999) “New secrets of effective natural stress and weight management, using Rhodiola rosea and Rhodendron caucasicum” ATN/Safe Goods Publishing, CT.
- (2) De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307.
- (3) 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.
- (4) Provalova NV, Skurikhin EG, Pershina OV. Mechanisms underling the effects of adaptogens on erithropoiesis during paradoxical sleep deprivation. Bulletin Experimental Biology Medicine 2002 May; 133(5) :428-32.
- (5) Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4.
- (6) Brown R, Gerbarg P, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: a phytomedicinal overview. HerbalGram. American Botanical Council. 2002; 56:40-52.