Herb of the Month - Rhodiola!

Author: Corinne Bett   Date Posted:23 February 2016 

As the end of the summer approaches, are you starting to feel a little burnt out? In need of a holiday? Well, our happy little herb of the month, Rhodiola, is here to help! Rhodiola, or Golden root, is one of the best stress busting herbs we have available to us in Western Herbal Medicine.

Not only is it a great stress buster it can also improve cognitive function and mental fatigue. Rhodiola grows naturally in harsh, high altitude Artic areas of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia and the root has been used in traditional folk medicine to increase physical endurance, enhance productivity and longevity, improve resistance to altitude sickness, boost the immune system and to help sexual dysfunction, low mood and other nervous system disorders.

The roots were traditionally incorporated in bouquets to enhance the fertility of Siberian couples prior to marriage, and the Vikings even used Rhodiola to increase their physical strength and endurance, of which they are so famed. Yep, the Vikings were on to a good thing…

What makes Rhodiola so awesome?

The Russians decided to see what all the fuss was about with Rhodiola in the 1960’s and conducted scientific studies into the adaptogenic qualities of the herb; that is, how Rhodiola assists the body to adapt to stress of both a physical and mental nature. And wouldn’t you know it, they were pleasantly surprised with their results. It is thought that some of the main plant chemicals that exert the therapeutic adaptogenic effects in Rhodiola include the Salidrosides and Rosavins.

Read on to see how Rhodiola may be able to help you be strong of mind and body, just like a Viking!

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Stress Buster

Rhodiola can help relieve the symptoms of stress and mild anxiety, and can help to promote a healthy mood. This is because Rhodiola helps modulate the stress response and reduce cortisol levels in the body, one of our main stress hormones which perpetuates chronic prolonged stress. A randomized, placebo controlled trial over a period of 4 weeks showed that Rhodiola was able to decrease the cortisol levels in patients with burnout, and demonstrated improved mental performance and concentration of these fatigued individuals.

Rhodiola may also exert a calming effecting on the sympathetic nervous system within 30 minutes, after just one dose of the herb, so it can be used in acutely stressful situations also.

Super thinker

Rhodiola may improve cognitive function, attention, memory and learning. This is thought to be because Rhodiola can trigger the release of the neurotransmitters which activate the thinking, memory and learning centres of the brain. Rhodiola can help with mental fatigue also. Another double blind, placebo controlled trial tested Rhodiola, with a standardised amount of the active constituent Salidroside, on a group of students during a stressful exam period.

After 20 days of treatment with Rhodiola, the students displayed improvements in mental fatigue, neuro-motor skills, physical fitness and a self-assessed increase in general well-being.

In summary, Rhodiola can help with:

  • Stress
  • Mild Anxiety
  • Cognitive function
  • Mental focus
  • Making you strong and Viking like…….well maybe not, but it’s worth a try isn’t it!?

Note: Rhodiola may interact with some medications, so please check with your doctor before trying out this wonderful herb. 

Written by Corinne Bett

Corinne spent her childhood helping her mother and grandfather in the garden grow various herbs and vegetables. This sparked a great interest in herbal medicine and nutrition in later life, and a passion for a wholefood diet. As a Naturopath today, she likes to empower others to utilise food as medicine, and live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In her spare time she like to spend time in nature bushwalking and swimming, adventuring in far and exotic places, and dreaming about what kind of dog she might like to have one day.