Traditional and Clinical Research on Rhodiola Rosea for Memory, Mood, and Energy

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Traditional Research on Rhodiola Rosea for Memory, Mood, and Energy

Use of rhodiola rosea has a long and storied history in China, Tibet, Russia, and Scandinavia. In these countries it has been used for a range of conditions such as stress-induced depression, anxiety, fatigue, anaemia, impotence, infections (including colds and influenza), cancer, nervous system disorders, and headaches. (1)

It is also regarded as a tonic and stimulant, used to increase physical endurance, stress
resistance, attention span, memory and work productivity, and resistance to high altitude sickness. (2) Pretty impressive for a single herb!

Clinical Research on Rhodiola Rosea for Memory, Mood, and Energy

The amount of clinical research on rhodiola rosea is astonishing. In the review of rhodiola in HerbalGram, a publication of the American Botanical Council, it is stated that, “since 1960, more than 180 pharmacological, phytochemical, and clinical studies have been published.” (3)

Below are a small sample of some of the most striking studies that relate to its support for cognition and vitality, particularly memory, focus, and energy.

A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work.

OBJECTIVE: This study was performed to measure the effect of a single dose of standardized SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract on capacity for mental work against a background of fatigue and stress.
STUDY DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS AND AGE GROUP: 161 cadets aged from 19 to 21 years
DOSAGE AND TRIAL LENGTH: 370 or 555mg a day of extract for 1-7 days
CONCLUSIONS: The study showed a pronounced antifatigue effect reflected in an antifatigue index defined as a ratio called AFI. The verum groups had AFI mean values of 1.0385 and 1.0195, 2 and 3 capsules respectively, whilst the figure for the placebo group was 0.9046. This was statistically highly significant (p < 0.001) for both doses (verum groups), whilst no significant difference between the two dosage groups was observed. There was a possible trend in favour of the lower dose in the psychometric tests.
See Study

A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to investigate the stimulating and normalizing effect of the adaptogen Rhodiola rosea extract SHR-5 in foreign students during a stressful examination period.
STUDY DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS AND AGE GROUP: 40 male participants ages 13-29
DOSAGE AND TRIAL LENGTH: 100mg a day of extract for 20 days
CONCLUSIONS: The most significant improvement in the SHR-5 group was seen in physical fitness, mental fatigue and neuro-motoric tests (p <0.01). The self-assessment of the general well-being was also significantly (p < 0.05) better in the verum group. The overall conclusion is that the study drug gave significant results compared to the placebo group.
See Study

Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of standardized extract SHR-5 of rhizomes of Rhodiola rosea L. in patients suffering from a current episode of mild/moderate depression.
STUDY DESIGN: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS AND AGE GROUP: 89 participants of both genders aged 18-70 years, were selected according to DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for depression, the severity of which was determined by scores gained in Beck Depression Inventory and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) questionnaires.
DOSAGE AND TRIAL LENGTH: 340-680mg a day of rhodiola SHR-5 extract for 42 days
CONCLUSIONS: For individuals in groups A (340mg) and B (680mg), overall depression, together with insomnia, emotional instability and somatization, but not self-esteem, improved significantly following medication, whilst the placebo group did not show such improvements. No serious side-effects were reported in any of the groups A-C. It is concluded that the standardized extract SHR-5 shows anti-depressive potency in patients with mild to moderate depression when administered in dosages of either 340 or 680 mg/day over a 6-week period.
See Study


The wide range of uses for this amazing herb have deemed it a first class adaptogen, which are a special class of substances that help the body adapt to stressors of all kinds and have a normalizing effect of bodily processes.

Rhodiola rosea is one of my personal favorite herbs and it is one of the few herbs I use on an ongoing basis. It has given me a visceral increase in energy and has had a pronounced effect on my adrenal function. This was confirmed by an adrenal hormone panel taken before use of rhodiola and after three months of daily use.

Whether you are looking for help with memory, focus, energy, or mood (or all of them!), rhodiola rosea should be considered at the top of your list of natural substances to try!

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