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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

Rhodiola has long been categorized as an adaptogenic plant, the same category as Ashwagandha, happy face in a cupPanax ginseng, Schisandra and others.  These plants are known for their ability to support the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and by doing so, foster a healthy physiologic response to stress and the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), cortisol and beta-endorphins.  Rhodiola also supports the cellular production of energy, in the form of ATP as well as antioxidant mechanisms, inflammatory pathways and the immune system.  One of the unique aspects of rhodiola that I rely on is its additional ability to influence neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.  It is these latter influences that were of interest in this systematic review of randomized controlled trials using Rhodiola to treat depression, anxiety or mood.

A total of 39 randomized controlled trials were identified.  After screening, a total of 17 papers were excluded because they were focusing on other outcomes. The remaining 22 papers were read and an additional 17 papers were excluded from the review because again, the studies were not focused on depression, anxiety or mood, or they were using rhodiola in combination with other herbs.  That left a total of 5 papers and 327 participants eligible for the systematic review.  In these studies, R. rosea supplementation was found to be able to alleviate mild to moderate depression and mild anxiety, and in addition may also enhance mood.   It seems to improve the symptoms of mild to moderate depression, symptoms of mild anxiety and to enhance mood. Doses used in the 5 studies were different and ranged from 100 mg/day to 1,000 mg/day.  The last study included was October 2019.   The five studies included are listed below the main reference.

Commentary:  Rhodiola has been my favorite adaptogen of the last 20 years.  Not to say I typically use it alone, but it is unique in its body of research and its multiple uses not only for depression/anxiety and mood, but mitochondrial fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, infertility due to anovulation and more.  Over time, I have increasingly used higher doses such as 600 mg/day for chronic fatigue syndrome while most of the time I use 100 mg-200 mg doses for depression/anxiety and low mood.

Reference: Konstantinos F, Heun R.  The effects of Rhodiola Rosea supplementation on depression, anxiety and mood- A systematic review.  2020; Global Psychiatry, 3(1): 72-82.

Additional Resources:

Cropley M, Banks AP, Boyle J ‘The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms’ Phytother Res. 2015 Dec;29(12):1934–9.

Darbinyan V, Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, Malmström C, Panossian A. ‘Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.’ Nord J Psychiatry. 2007;61(5):343–8

Mao Y, Li Y, Yao N (2007) ‘Simultaneous determination of salidroside and tyrosol in extracts of Rhodiola L. By microwave assisted extraction and high-performance liquid chromatography’. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis.45 (3): 510–5.

Olsson EM, Von Sheele B, Panossian AG (2009) ‘A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Standardised Extract SHR-5 of the Roots of Rhodiola rosea in the Treatment of Subjects with Stress-Related Fatigue’. Planta Med. 2009 Feb;75(2):105–12.

Spasov A.A., Wikman G.K., Mandrikov V.B., Mironova A., Neumoin V.V.NEUMOIN (2000) ‘A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodio/a rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen.’ Phytomedicine, Vol. 7(2), pp. 85–89.

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