rhodiola rosea plant and flower

Ever heard of the herb Rhodiola rosea? It’s very impressive.

Rhodiola rosea offers these benefits:

  • Improves mood
  • Alleviates depression
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Improves both physical and mental performance
  • Prevents high-altitude sickness

Sounds like a dream supplement for endurance athletes!

Who uses it?

This plant grows in cold regions of the world, so the Russians are generally known as its proponents. Via Wikipedia:

In Russia, Rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life. It is also used to increase physical endurance and resistance to high-altitude sickness, but the scientific evidence for such benefits is weak. It has also been used for centuries in Scandinavia, both by the Vikings and the Sámi.

And yes, the Vikings use it to increase their physical strength and endurance!

How does it work?

Rhodiola rosea’s effects are often attributed to its ability to optimize serotonin and dopamine levels. Substances like these are referred to as adaptogens. They differ from stimulants, although their effects are not totally different from caffeine.

Rhodiola rosea and other adaptogens reduce fatigue.

(If you’re looking for more adaptogens, try Tulsi tea or the supplements from BioTerra Herbs.)

Where’s the proof?

According to the published research, most studies found rhodiola rosea effective for both physical and mental fatigue. Some evidence suggests that the herb may be helpful for enhancing physical performance and alleviating mental fatigue. However, those studies have either a high risk of bias or a high chance that reporting flaws are hiding their bias.

If limited to only trustworthy, reliable research (via Examine.com), the reported benefits are fewer. For example, it was only shown to improve physical performance in untrained people. It didn’t work for trained athletes.

However, “rhodiola appears to be able to significantly reduce the effects of prolonged and minor physical exhaustion that results in fatigue.” So it can reduce fatigue!

It can also improve mental performance by reducing fatigue. But, it’s not a nootropic. So unless you’re fatigued, don’t expect a boost in brainpower.

A single dose in the 288-680 mg range is suggested.

Rhodiola rosea is best for:

Rhodiola rosea is an ideal ergogenic aid for ultra-endurance athletes. If you would like to reduce fatigue and exhaustion, and you find yourself in prolonged stressful situations (e.g. ultra-marathons or triathlons), this is exactly what you need.

It would also be a fine choice for people with extremely stressful lives.

It could even work well to treat depression.

Where do I buy it?

You might see it labeled as:

  • Rhodiola rosea
  • Golden Root
  • Roseroot

Look for it to say “3% rosavins and 1% salidroside.”

You can find it on Amazon. Trusted brands include Now Foods, Nature’s Way, and Gaia herbs.

You can also get the powder in bulk.

Show References

This article was first published on November 28, 2007. It was updated on April 28, 2018 to reference new studies and include more in-depth analysis.

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Levi Bloom is an experienced endurance athlete who has been training and competing for over 17 years. A former Cat 1 road and mountain bike racer (professional class on the regional circuit), he is now a cycling coach (USA Cycling Level 3 Certified) and sports nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified).

5 Comments
  1. Will take a look into bit of golden light in the darker months. Could also be usefull for people who are trying to fit a training into a nine to five day??

  2. Yep, probably. I’m sure it would come in handy for anyone during these months where it’s dark at 5 PM!

  3. Yes adaptogens were used by early Russian and German athletes. Reference, Joe Friel’s training bible, the section on nutrition and supplements.

  4. Can this be used when taking antidepressants, I wonder?

  5. @joy

    I’ve never heard of Rhodiola rosea reacting with an antidepressant, and I think I’ve seen studies where patients were on both antidepressants and Rhodiola rosea, so it would seem to be ok.

    However, it would be good to check with the doctor prescribing antidepressants to be safe.

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