This flowering plant, which grows naturally in Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, is used to fight off exhaustion. It’s also an adaptogen, which means it’s thought to reduce the symptoms of stress and improve both physical and mental endurance.
Multiple studies support the idea that rhodiola rosea improves athletic performance and mental focus. There’s also evidence that rhodiola can boost cognitive functioning in people who’re pooped, but there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that non-fatigued people will see a jump in mental prowess. Some research suggests that the herb can push your personal limits on physical exercise (in short, making you harder-better-faster-stronger), but this effect seems to be limited to untrained exercisers. Experiments with trained athletes show that rhodiola rosea doesn’t do much.
“It’s one of my favorite adaptogenic herbs,” says Bronwyn Fitz, M.D., an OB-GYN at the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. “I use rhodiola for patients who are feeling fatigued from chronic stress, need to improve their mental focus during the day, want improved energy, and might have a tendency toward mild depression.” Side effects could include agitation, dry mouth, and dizziness. People who take antidepressants should be cautious when taking rhodiola, Dr. Fitz warns, because they may act in a similar way.
How to Use It
Look for a product that was standardized to 3 percent rosavins and 0.8 percent salidrosides (it’ll say on the packaging)—that’s what the research has focused on. Doses can range from 200 to 680 milligrams (mg) per day. “Most people do well with a dose of 300 to 400 mg a day, which can be taken all at once or divided,” Dr. Fitz says. “I recommend taking rhodiola in the morning, or if taking divided doses, take in the morning and afternoon.” Avoid evening dosing, as the peppy herb could keep you tossing and turning.