Rhodiola Rosea

Background:

Rhodiola Rosea is a plant that grows in the cold, high altitude climates of Europe and Asia. The roots have been used in traditional medicine to increase energy. This is reported to be an “adaptogen”. An adaptogen is a compound that may help the body to react to chemical, biological or physical stress.

Mechanism of action: 

The root contains many compounds but the glycoside called either salidroside, rhodioloside, or rhodosine is thought to have a stimulating or adaptogenic effect.

Dosing:

340mg daily seems to be the lowest dose studied.

Effectiveness:

(1) A study was conducted in 57 patients with depression. Patients received pharmaceutical-grade Rhodiola Rosea SHR-5 340mg, the antidepressant Sertraline 50mg or placebo. Sertraline decreased depression scores more than Rhodiola Rosea. Rhodiola Rosea barely performed better than placebo. Rhodiola Rosea did have less side effects than Sertraline. This study helps to show that Rhodiola Rosea may not be the best product for depression. It may still be useful for increasing energy or specific fatigue-related symptoms of depression, but this is yet to be proven.

(2) A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study was conducted in 89 patients with mild to moderate depression. The patients received Rhodiola Rosea SHR-5 340mg per day, 680mg per day or placebo. Rhodiola Rosea decreased Hamilton depression scores from 24 to 15 while no difference was shown in the placebo group. This shows some data that Rhodiola Rosea may have some antidepressant effects. More evidence is needed because studies are showing conflicting results.

Safety: 

Natural medicines database considers Rhodiola Rosea to be possibly safe. Use in pregnant or breastfeeding patients is not recommended.

Medication interactions:

Rhodiola Rosea may decrease blood pressure and blood sugar. Caution is warranted if you are taking blood pressure or diabetic medications. Rhodiola Rosea inhibits a liver enzyme, CYP3A4. This can affect any medication that is metabolized through this enzyme. A case report showed tachycardia, which is an increased heart rate, in a patient taking the antidepressant medication Escitalopram with Rhodiola Rosea. There are potentially more interactions. Always check with a medical professional.

Side effects:

Dizziness and increased or decreased production of saliva.

Other: 

There are not a lot of studies assessing the effects of Rhodiola on depression. I found evidence supporting the use in depression and evidence showing no benefit.

My experience:

I bought Rhodiola Rosea, 3% Salidroside powder. The smell reminds me of something mechanical, almost like a smell from an auto parts store. The taste is unique. I did not enjoy it but was able to tolerate it when mixed with hot tea. I had a mixed experience with Rhodiola Rosea. I noticed some increased anxiety, but it was short-lived and may not have been related to the product. I did notice some minor benefits with energy and my gym performance, but my mood stayed mostly the same.

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Sources:
1. Mao JJ, Xie SX, Zee J, et al. Rhodiola Rosea versus Sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2015 Mar 15;22(3):394-9.

2. Ross S, Rhodiola Rosea (SHR-5), Part 2: A Standardized Extract of Rhodiola Rosea Is Shown to Be Effective in the Treatment of Mild to Moderate Depression. Holist Nurs Pract. 2014 May-Jun;28(3):217-21.

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