Rhodiola rosea is a medicinal plant in the Rhodiola genera (Crassulaceae family) which has traditionally been used as an anti-fatigue agent and adaptogen compound. The root contains a number of bioactive compounds, but the main two that are thought to mediate its effects are rosavin and salidroside. Rhodiola supplements are generally taken in the form of root powder or standardized extracts with 1–5% salidrosides. Although rhodiola supplements are usually taken for their stress-and fatigue-reducing effects, they may also have antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
The main benefits of rhodiola are associated with its adaptogenic properties and include reduced stress and fatigue, as well as increased mental performance, particularly under stressful conditions. Rhodiola has an extensive track record for efficacy, with medicinal use dating back centuries, when it was used to promote healing, stress relief, and increased sense of wellbeing. In preclinical studies involving model organisms such as fruit flies, worms, and yeast, rhodiola has been shown to have anti-aging and longevity-promoting properties, as well as anti-cancer effects. More research is needed to determine whether there are similar effects in humans.
In short-to-moderate intake durations (months to a year) and in moderate doses, rhodiola is safe, with little to no side effects. Although reports of adverse effects are rare, dizziness and dry mouth were noted in a small number of participants in one trial. Rhodiola has been shown to interact with liver enzymes in vitro, indicating a possibility for drug interactions. It increased the concentration and decreased clearance of a particular antihypertensive drug in rabbits, confirming interaction with at least one class of drugs in vivo.
Although it is known for its ability to alleviate psychological stress and anxiety, rhodiola has also been shown to interact with cellular stress-response signaling in in vitro studies, indicating that it may have benefits at the cellular level as well as the systemic level. The mechanisms behind rhodiola’s ability to mitigate stress in humans are complex and not well understood. The anti-stress effects of rhodiola may occur in part due to it being able to blunt cortisol release under stressful conditions.
One study has found that some commercial Rhodiola products may be diluted or otherwise adulterated.