Rhodiola rosea has been used to resist mental and physical fatigue for hundreds of years.
It’s also well known for providing stress protection at the same time, which makes it an herbal adaptogen.
But is rhodiola rosea a nootropic? If we look at current research in this area, does it qualify as a brain booster?
So far, we’ve determined that Rhodiola acts as a powerful anti-oxidant, and it regulates stress hormones like cortisol.
Rhodiola doesn’t increase energy levels directly, but it does protect your brain and body from damage caused by inflammation.
Let’s dig a little deeper to better understand the root of these benefits, shall we?
What is Rhodiola Rosea?
Rhodiola is a medicinal herb that has been used in Northern Europe, Asia, and Russia for thousands of years.
Vikings used it to get psyched up for raids, and cosmonauts have used it to stay on task while in orbit.
Also known as Golden Root, or Arctic Root, Rhodiola has been known to improve productivity in workers, enhance memory, reaction times, and mental focus.
The root of the Rhodiola plant contains active ingredients called Rosavins and Salidrosides, which provide its’ beneficial effects. Rhodiola is known as both an Adaptogen, and an Ergogenic.
Adaptogens provide neuroprotective properties from stress hormones, and Ergogenics enhance overall performance.
The scientific community has been trying to catch up to the world of traditional medicine by improving our understanding of how effective Rhodiola can be, as well as the mechanisms that allow it to work.
Studies have been done with healthy individuals testing its’ ability to enhance performance. People with various impairments have also been participating in clinical trials to measure it’s therapeutic value.
Rhodiola Rosea Benefits – How does it Work?
In addition to the well known advantages mentioned above, Rhodiola has been found to provide a lot of other health benefits.
This is a short list:
- Immune System Stimulant
Clinical studies are being done to pinpoint exactly how Rhodiola can provide all of these benefits.
However, it is generally believed that the Adaptogenic and Anti-Oxidative effects account for the anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulant advantages.
Rhodiola is also commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety, and although it is not as potent as Ashwagandha in this respect, researchers are trying to confirm how it works.
The 3 neurotransmitters most directly related to issues with depression are Dopamine, Seratonin, and Norepinephrine.
The predominant theory right now is that Rhodiola helps reduce symptoms of depression by boosting levels of all 3 of these key neurotransmitters.
However, more studies need to be conducted to substantiate these claims.
Then of course, there’s the potential for therapeutic applications. Rhodiola is being studied for its’ ability to treat:
- Cerebrovascular Disease
- Cardiovascular Disease
Rhodiola’s ability to treat the ailments mentioned above is still poorly understood. The ‘super powers’ of this plant are potentially linked to its’ adaptogenic, ergogenic, and nootropic benefits.
However, Rhodiola also contains a host of other phytonutrients like flavonoids, tannins, terpenoids, and sterols whose potential benefits we have not even considered yet.
What are phytonutrients? They are loosely defined as compounds found in plants that benefit human health with little or no side effects.
This definition closely parallels that of a nootropic substance. The only difference being that nootropics specifically improve cognitive function with almost no side effects.
Another way to put it is that any chemical constituent found to be active in plants that improves our health has been labelled a phytonutrient.
This is a fancy dancy way of the scientific community saying, “We know this stuff is good for us, but we don’t know why…yet.”.
Ha! Take that science!
However, I think the word, “yet”, is the most important part of the silly statement I just made.
It may be a while before we fully understand all of the complex effects these compounds can have on human health, and it is universally understood that more research is required.
But I have faith that eventually, we’ll get there.
And speaking of side effects, Rhodiola has very few if any. The most common are headaches and insomnia. In very rare instances, some users have experienced nausea and a dry mouth.
Please keep in mind that I can’t really offer medical advice. I am simply someone who is very enthusiastic about nootropics and the benefits they can offer people.
That being said, anyone who is diabetic, or taking blood pressure medication should speak with their doctor before taking Rhodiola. Rhodiola has been known to lower blood pressure, so it could be a concern.
Generally speaking, however, Rhodiola is considered quite safe.
Is Rhodiola Rosea a Nootropic? – Does it Help Brain Function?
The overall effect of Rhodiola is to energize the central nervous system.
The CNS has 2 major systems, the sympathetic system, and the parasympathetic system.
When we are excited or feel threatened, the sympathetic system is activated. This is commonly referred to as our, “fight-or-flight” reaction to stressors.
A more technical way of phrasing it would be to say that our sympatho-adrenal-system(SAS) is activated. This is where the nervous system and the adrenal system communicate.
Conversely, when we are at rest, the parasympathetic system is working. This is known as our, “rest-and-digest”, or our, “feed-and-breed” response.
The parasympathetic system regulates digestion, sexual arousal, and several other functions.
In any case, Rhodiola acts as a nootropic in 3 major ways:
- Stimulating the Sympatho-Adrenal-System(SAS) – this accounts for the common experience of, ‘feeling energized’. This effect is directly related to Rhodiolas’ ability to act as an Ergogenic.
- Protecting the Brain from Stress Hormones & Oxidative Damage – Rhodiola acts as an Adaptogen, regulating the effects of stress hormones like Cortisol on the brain. It also has anti-oxidant properties, allowing it to prevent inflammation of brain tissue.
- Neurotransmitter Uptake Inhibitor – Rhodiola has been shown to increase levels of Acetylcholine, Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine in the brain. It accomplishes this by blocking the effects of the enzymes that normally break these neurotransmitters down.
There are a few things to note here.
One of the most commonly seen side effects of taking Rhodiola is headaches.
It is possible that by blocking the enzymatic reactions that break down neurotransmitters upsets the normal metabolism of our brain chemistry.
In other words, people using Rhodiola to enhance performance could be experiencing neurotransmitter toxicity when they get those headaches.
This is mere speculation at this point, but even so, it is often recommended that Rhodiola supplements or nootropic stacks containing Rhodiola be ‘cycled’.
Simply put, you should give yourself a break.
A good example would be taking your supplement or stack during the work week, and leaving it on the shelf during the weekend.
And getting some extra sleep never hurts. Your brain needs rest to perform like a champ!
Another thing to realize is that Rhodiola Rosea is often paired with Bacopa Monnieri, because while Rhodiola stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, Bacopa activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
In other words, these 2 natural nootropics compliment each other extremely well.
If we follow this train of thought a little further, adding CDP Choline with Rhodiola and Bacopa creates a great synergy where all 3 ingredients not only compliment each other, but augment each others’ effects.
CDP Choline provides the building blocks needed to create Acetylcholine in the brain.
Acetylcholiine was the first neurotransmitter ever discovered, and it performs numerous functions necessary for working memory, learning, and mental focus.
This is really just a teaser. Rhodiola is a great nootropic on its’ own, but it can do even more for you when combined with other nootropics.
Let’s move on to some of the other benefits Rhodiola can offer us.
Rhodiola Rosea Side Effects – Dosage Notes
Rhodiola is available in teas, tablets, powders, or capsules. How much you need to take for it to be effective depends on why you are taking it, and in what form.
The recommended daily dosage can range from 50 mg/day to 600 mg/day.
However, since this article is mainly focused on Rhodiola as a nootropic, we will concentrate on how much to take for cognitive enhancement.
In order to experience improvements in energy, learning, memory, and focus, the recommended dosage is 50-200 mg/day.
I know this is a pretty broad range, but with Rhodiola, a little can go a long way. It really depends on your individual body chemistry, and how potent the supplement.
Generally speaking, I would also encourage you to get the highest quality supplement you can find.
The active ingredients are Rosavins and Salidrosides. Ideally, you want a supplement that is standardized to contain:
- Rosavins – 3%
- Salidrosides – 1%
This is the magic formula that has been found to provide the most benefits for users, so make sure your chosen supplement has this 3 to 1 ratio.
In addition, look for a product that is ‘Certified Organic’ to ensure it is free of any pesticides, heavy metals, or bacterial contaminants.
The reason I am being such a stickler about the 3 to 1 ratio is that there have been a lot of cases where the amount of active ingredients in Rhodiola supplements have been so low that they were completely ineffective.
This can be due to many factors.
Rhodiola plants that are grown in harsher climates tend to grow more slowly, and are typically more potent. So the quality of the ingredients can vary widely depending on where the plants are grown.
In addition, the longer Rhodiola ingredients are held in storage, the less effective they become. You might want to check your expiration dates.
I should also mention that another way to ensure you get a high quality supplement is to do some research on the producer. In other words, buy from a company that you trust.
They should have a well established presence online, as well as in the supplement industry, and offer a money back guarantee.
Personally, I take a full spectrum nootropic supplement called Mind Lab Pro to manage my ADD and perform better at work.
I checked out Opti-Nutra, the company that makes Mind Lab Pro, inside and out.
The Rhodiola extract they use is second-to-none in quality, and is tested by a neutral 3rd party for efficacy before final packaging.
I have never had to worry about getting ripped off because I did my due diligence.
I recommend you do the same.
Rhodiola Rosea – Final Comments & Recommendations
So is rhodiola rosea a nootropic? Does it improve mental capacities with minimal side effects?
Yes, I think it qualifies.
If you’re constantly under stress, and having problems with brain fog because of it, Rhodiola is a very good solution for you.
There are numerous Rhodiola-based supplements online, and at your local health food store that can fit the bill.
However, I’m not going to recommend a specific Rhodiola-based supplement.
Instead, I would encourage you to use a comprehensive nootropic stack that combines Rhodiola with Bacopa Monnieri and Citicoline.
The reasoning behind this is that Rhodiola, Bacopa, and Citicoline together make an amazing combination that is more balanced, and should provide you with more energy long term.
This approach will also provide you with a clean source of energy; free of sugar and stimulants.
Personally, I take Mind Lab Pro, and occasionally add some Ginko Biloba along with some Ashwagandha if I think I need an extra boost.
Another little trick I can suggest is using L-Theanine along with your morning cup of coffee or tea. This is optional, of course, but L-Theanine is the naturally occurring nootropic found in tea that provides a relaxed state of focus.
Coffee or tea will contain some caffeine as well, but combining it with L-Theanine is a very common strategy used by neurohackers to shake off any ‘brain fog’, or ‘the morning blahs’.
That’s about all I wanted to share with you about Rhodiola.
I really like how it provides a ‘One-Two Punch’ by providing stress protection and optimizing energy levels at the same time.
It’s a great natural supplement to enhance performance.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, and I will be more than happy to help you out!
In my next article, I will be talking about L-Theanine, and how it can benefit all you neurohackers out there!
Until next time,
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