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5 Benefits and Side Effects of Rhodiola Rosea (10 Contraindications To Be Noted) [Updated Dec/2022]

Rhodiola is considered an adaptogen that improves physical and mental performance, and its medicinal effects are similar to ginseng and eleuthero root

Its rhizome has been used for a long time as a natural remedy to eliminate fatigue, improve memory, enhance physical and mental performance, and prevent altitude sickness

What are the benefits of Rhodiola Rosea in empirical medicine? Are there any side effects of Rhodiola Rosea? See text analysis for details

What is Rhodiola?

Rhodiola rosea is a relatively rare and valuable medicinal plant (Rhodiola genus, Crassulaceae family) whose roots and rhizomes have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It grows at high altitudes in Europe, Asia and North America.

There are nearly 200 species in the genus, of which about 20 are used as traditional medicines in Asia, the common ones are: Rhodiola kirilovii, R. crenulata, R. sacra, R. alterna, R. quadrifia and R. rosea.

Among Rhodiola rosea, the Rhodiola rosea variety (also known as golden root or rose root) is the primary subject of phytochemical, animal, and human studies, with approximately 51% of animal studies and 94% of human research using this species.

What are the recommended scientifically proven benefits of Rhodiola?

  1. Beneficial for depression

Depression is the second most common chronic disease and is widespread worldwide. According to reports, about half of patients are either unaware of their disease or misdiagnosed with another disease. Associated symptoms include states of sadness, loneliness, irritability, hopelessness, confusion, and shame, as well as sometimes physical symptoms.

Less than 25% of people with depression receive adequate treatment. Furthermore, traditional antidepressants are often associated with incomplete remission, low adherence, low remission rates, high risk of relapse, numerous side effects, low tolerance, and premature discontinuation.

A preliminary randomized, double-blind, controlled study (12 weeks in 57 patients with mild to moderate depression) found that rhodiola rosea had an effect, albeit to a lesser extent, on reducing scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale It is suitable for antidepressant drugs (sertraline), but has high tolerance and low side effects, showing that rhodiola has mild antidepressant effects . Note 1

Another randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial (12 weeks in 100 patients with mild to moderately severe depression) showed that Rhodiola combined with antidepressants (sertraline) can bring Better quality of life and improvement of clinical symptoms, more significant at higher doses . Note 2

*Conclusion: For patients with depression, Rhodiola may be able to bring positive help, but limited by the small sample size, more research is still needed for further verification.

  1. Beneficial for unstable angina

Angina pectoris is a symptom of transient myocardial ischemia. At the most basic level, angina occurs when the oxygen demand of the myocardium exceeds the ability of the coronary circulation to provide sufficient oxygen to maintain normal metabolic function of the myocardium.

Stable angina is defined as symptoms that only occur when exerting force, and unstable angina (Unstable angina) mostly occurs at rest. Chest pain and shortness of breath are still one of the most common symptoms in patients with unstable angina.

The pain usually radiates to the jaw or arm, and both the left and right sides may be affected. Systemic symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, and palpitations may also occur.

A meta-analysis of literature (Meta-Analysis, including 18 randomized controlled trials, a total of 1,679 patients with unstable angina) pointed out that compared with western medicine alone, the addition of Rhodiola wallichiana var. cholaensis extract therapy It can reduce the frequency of angina pectoris, improve abnormal ECG, and reduce whole blood viscosity, plasma viscosity, serum fibrinogen, thromboxane B2 and C-reactive protein levels . Note 3

*Conclusion: For unstable angina pectoris, additional therapy of Rhodiola rosea extract may be positively helpful, but limited by the low quality and small sample size of the existing evidence, more research is still needed to confirm its clinical benefit.

  1. Good for physical and mental fatigue

Fatigue can be divided into mental fatigue and physical fatigue. Mental fatigue refers to a psychobiological state in which an individual exhibits subjective, behavioral, and physiological changes caused by prolonged or excessively demanding intellectual tasks.

Physical fatigue (or muscle fatigue) is another type of fatigue caused by physical activity, defined as the inability to maintain required levels of strength after prolonged use of muscles. It is a complex multifactorial phenomenon influenced by the characteristics of the task being performed.

A systematic review (including 11 controlled trials) pointed out that some studies found that oral administration of Rhodiola rosea extract can enhance physical strength and reduce mental fatigue . Note 4

*Conclusion: Although some evidence shows that Rhodiola is helpful in improving physical and mental fatigue, but limited by the low quality and small sample size of the existing evidence, more large-scale high-quality research is still needed for further verification.

  1. Prevention of acute mountain sickness

Acute mountain sickness or acute altitude sickness, is a pathological reaction of human beings at high altitudes (above 2100 meters). Caused by low oxygen concentration in the blood, it has a series of non-specific symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, palpitations, nausea, chest tightness, fatigue, numbness of limbs, convulsions, insomnia and other symptoms.

In severe cases, it can develop into high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which is life-threatening.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study (102 healthy adult volunteers) showed that rhodiola rosea extract (Rhodiola crenulata) was associated with a reduction in the incidence or severity of acute mountain sickness compared with placebo no effect . Note 5

*Conclusion: Up to now, Rhodiola (Rhodiola crenulata species) has not brought positive help to the prevention of acute mountain sickness, but limited by the small number of samples, more research is still needed for further verification.

  1. Beneficial stress reliever

Stress is a physiological response to environmental threats that can be self-driven or external.

It manifests as a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms. If persistent and untreated, stress can lead to serious health problems, including burnout, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and musculoskeletal disorders.

A multicenter, nonrandomized, open-label, single-arm trial (4 weeks in 1375 participants with life-stress symptoms) showed that oral Rhodiola rosea extract (200 mg twice daily) had Helps improve life stress-related symptoms . Note 6

*Conclusion: Rhodiola rosea may be able to bring positive help to symptoms related to life stress, but limited by the small sample size, more research is still needed for further confirmation.


Are there any side effect of Rhodiol?

Rhodiola rosea has been rated as a highly safe herb in most studies. Under normal doses (200 to 600 mg), there is no toxic reaction and no side effects. Note 10, but due to its ability to regulate physical fitness, In a small number of cases, there have been reactions such as dry mouth, restlessness, and dizziness. If these conditions occur, please stop taking.

Safety precautions

1. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use it , because the relevant safety is unknown

2. Do not take it before going to bed, it may cause insomnia

3. Patients with coagulation dysfunction, who are taking anticoagulant drugs or before surgery should not use it (a large amount of rhodiola may have anticoagulant effect)

4. Patients with autoimmune disease should not use it , as it may worsen the condition (because Rhodiola may enhance the immune system), such as: systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory enteropathy…etc.

5. Do not use in combination with antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs, which may affect drug efficacy and increase the chance of adverse reactions, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines or monoamine oxidase inhibitors ( MAOI)

6. Do not use it in combination with drugs that need to be metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes, which may affect the efficacy of the drug. Related drug names include: lovastatin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, fexofenadine (non solifenadine), triazolam … etc.

7. Do not use it together with antidiabetic drugs, because it may cause hypoglycemia.

Related drug names include: glimepiride, glyburide, insulin, pioglitazone, rosiglitazone etc.

8. Do not use it together with antihypertensive drugs, as it may lead to hypotension.

Related drug names include: captopril, enalapril, losartan, valsartan, diltiazem, amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide

9. Do not use it in combination with drugs that need to be transported by p-glycoprotein, which may affect the efficacy of the drug. Related drugs include:

Chemotherapy drugs: etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine

Antifungal drugs: ketoconazole, itraconazole

Protease inhibitors: amprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, saquinavir

H2 antagonists: cimetidine, ranitidine

Some calcium channel blockers: diltiazem, verapamil

corticosteroids, erythromycin, cisapride, fexofenadine, cyclosporine, loperamide (loguatin), quinidine…

10. Do not use together with immunosuppressive agents (immunosuppressants), which may affect the efficacy of the drug.

Related drugs include: azathioprine, basiliximab, cyclosporine, daclizumab, muromonab-CD3 (moromonab), mycophenolate (mycophenolate mofetil), tacrolimus, sirolimus (rapamycin), prednisone, corticosteroids.


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