Rhodiola - The Herb That Could Replace Big Pharma's Antidepressants

Rhodiola - The Herb That Could Replace Big Pharma's Antidepressants

Forward thinking psychiatrists are finally catching up with the ageless wisdom surrounding a single herb that has been lifting people’s moods for centuries. This amazing herb is called Rhodiola Rosea, and it’s known as a powerful nootropic that works better than psychostimulants at curing anxiety and depression, but without the many side effects that pharmaceuticals often induce.

Fewer than 5 percent of the millions of people on prescription antidepressants are symptom free. That means they are still depressed! Furthermore, they don’t feel more mentally alert. Pharmaceutical meds also do little to support better sleep and heightened energy, as Rhodiola Rosea does.

With 8 to 10 percent of the entire population estimated to be taking some kind of anti-depressant (SSRIs), shouldn’t we know about some other alternatives for becoming anxiety and depression-free? Rhodiola is certainly one of them.


Used by BioHackers and Ancient Cultures Alike

Though popular recently in the biohacking community (group of people who like to hack into the brain to make it work better), Rhodiola Rosea has been used for centuries in the traditional medicine of Russia, Scandinavia and China. It grows naturally in cold, high-altitude climates, and its nutrients include powerful adaptogenic and anti-stress compounds.

In addition to Rhodiola rosea, over 200 different species of Rhodiola have been identified. Minimally, 20 are used in traditional medical systems in Asia, including R. alterna, R. brevipetiolata, R. crenulata, R. kirilowii, R. quadrifida, R. sachalinensis and R. sacra. That’s some plant!


How Does Rhodiola Work?

Adaptogens like Rhodiola have an interesting effect on our physiologies, such as:

  • Increasing our power to resist multiple stressors including physical, chemical and biological agents
  • Normalizing our physiology irrespective of the slant away from balance caused by other factors
  • Influencing the body to have resistance against non-specific factors

In short, an adaptogen helps us adapt.

Rhodiola has also been identified by Russian researchers to have 28 compounds, isolated from the roots and above-ground parts of the plant, including 12 novel compounds. The roots contain a range of biologically active substances, including organic acids, flavonoids, tannins and phenolic glycosides. Additionally, there are high levels of catechins, falvanoids and salidroside (rhodioloside), as well as addi- tional salidroside-like glycoside compounds (rhodiolin, rosin, rosavin, rosarin and rosiridin) and p-tyrosol, all thought to be critical plant constituents needed for therapeutic effects.


Rhodiola Helps Depressed Patients Feel Happy Again

One study found that after taking Rhodiola for just six weeks, depressed patients reported an absence of depressive symptoms.[i] Further studies report that people taking Rhodiola for a similar duration reported an elevated mood and sense of well-being, even though their life circumstances had not changed.[ii] [iii]


Rhodiola Helps Reduce Mental and Physical Fatigue

Still other studies have shown that Rhodiola helps to reduce both mental and physical fatigue.[iv] The implications of these studies are tremendous when you consider how many of us are under pressure daily to accomplish multiple tasks. We are trying to get in a good workout, perhaps spend some quality time with our family and friends, and make sure we still have the energy for a modicum of self-care all at once. Rhodiola just might make those lofty goals easier to accomplish.


Rhodiola Helps Reduce the Stress Hormone Cortisol

If that isn’t enough to intrigue you to learn more about Rhodiola, consider a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study that looked at how effectively the herb could reduce stress and fight fatigue. The research showed that people who took extracts from Rhodiola Rosea had lower cortisol levels, could concentrate better and possessed better overall mental performance than a placebo group who did not take Rhodiola.[v]


Additional Factors to Consider

Sure, we likely won’t realize real freedom from stress and anxiety if we continue to indulge in the Standard American Diet, stay sedentary, spend little or no time outdoors and fail to take care of our gut health. Yet sometimes, we need a little extra boost to help us in the right direction, especially when our bodies and minds have been neglected for some time.


You Choose – Big Pharma’s Meds or a Plant That’s Been Used for Centuries

With all this scientific documentation to support the efficacy of a single herb to improve your mental health, which would you prefer to take? Would you prefer an SSRI, increasingly prescribed with very low incidence of actually working, or an herbal remedy that boosts your body’s ability to handle multiple stressors, naturally? It seems like a no-brainer to us.


[i] Darbinyan, V., Aslanyan, G., Amroyan, E., Gabrielyan, E., Malmstrom, C., & Panossian, A. (2007). Clinical trial of rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nord J Psychiatry, 61(5):343-8.

[ii] Edwards, D., Heufelder, A., & Zimmermann, A. (2012). Therapeutic effects and safety of rhodiola rosea extract WS 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms – results of an open-label study. Phytother Res, 26(8):1220-5.

[iii] Spasov, A., Wikman, G., Mandrikov, V., Mironova, I., & Nrumoin, V. (2000). 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. Phytomedicine, 7(2):85-9.

[iv] Sana Ishaque, et al. Rhodiola Rosea for Physical and Mental Fatigue: A Systematic Review. BMC Compliment Alternative Medicine. 2012. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541197/

[v] Olsson EM, et al. 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. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19016404.


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