Rhodiola RoseaRhodiola Rosea is an herb tha has been used traditionally as a "tonic herb" to fight fatigue, aid convalescence from illness, prevent infections, and enhance sexual function.
In the twentieth century, Soviet physicians classified rhodiola as an adaptogen. This invented term refers to a hypothetical treatment that helps the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological stress. Furthermore, an adaptogen supposedly causes no side effects, treats a wide variety of illnesses, and helps return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong. Advocates of the adaptogen concept believe that rhodiola (and many other herbs) have this property.
Rhodiola rosea is currently marketed to fight fatigue, enhance mental function, increase general wellness, improve sports performance, and enhance sex drive in both men and women.
A few double-blind studies involving a single proprietary product found that the use of this particular rhodiola extract by people in stressful, fatiguing circumstances may help maintain normal mental function.
A double-blind , placebo-controlled study of 56 physicians on night-duty evaluated the potential benefits of rhodiola for maintaining mental acuity. Participants received either placebo or rhodiola extract (170 mg daily) for a period of 2 weeks. The results showed that participants taking rhodiola retained a higher level of mental function as measured by tests, such as mental arithmetic.
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated one-time use of the same rhodiola extract (at a dose of 370 mg or 555 mg) in 161 male military cadets undergoing sleep deprivation and stress. The results showed that rhodiola was more effective than placebo at fighting the effects of fatigue.
These studies were performed in former Soviet republics. For reasons that are unclear, double-blind studies performed in the former USSR (or China) almost always find the tested treatment effective. For this reason, only if confirmation is obtained in a more reliable setting can rhodiola be considered to have real supporting evidence behind it.
Very weak evidence hints that rhodiola might be helpful for preventing altitude sickness, and might aid cancer chemotherapy (by protecting the liver ).
Rhodiola has also been studied as a treatment for depression. In a randomized trial, 89 people with mild to moderate depression received rhodiola extract 340 mg, rhodiola extract 680 mg, or a placebo for 6 weeks. Those in both rhodiola groups experienced an improvement in most of their depression symptoms, whereas those in the placebo group experienced no such benefit.
Rhodiola extracts are standardized to their content of salidroside (also called rhodioloside). A typical dosage of 170 to 185 mg daily supplies 4.5 mg of salidroside. There are no known or suspected safety risks with rhodiola, and in clinical trials, no severe adverse effects have been reported. Comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with liver or kidney disease has not been established.
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