Rhodiola Benefits, Uses & History

Rhodiola is a flowering plant that naturally grows in colder regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is often referred to as arctic root, golden root, and king’s crown, although it’s Latin and scientific name is Rhodiola Rosea. 

The roots of this plant are known as adaptogens. As implied, following consumption, they are believed to help your body adapt to stress.

Rhodiola Benefits, Uses & History

This herb first became popular amongst the Vikings and has since been used for medical purposes in Iceland, Greece, Sweden, Russia, and France. 

Although Rhodiola is used to treat several conditions, there is a lack of scientific evidence which confirms whether it is very effective. 

The History of Rhodiola 

Rhodiola is typically referred to as golden root by ancient legends and it grows in mountainous colder climates in regions that are close to the arctic circle. The first use of this plant dates back to an estimated 2,000 years. 

The name Rhodiola Rosea was coined by a Swedish Botanist known as Carl Linnaeus in 1725. He believed that it would be an effective remedy that could be prescribed to patients that were experiencing hysteria or suffering from headaches.

He also thought that this herb could be used to treat hernias. 

Aside from the mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, it is also known to grow in New York, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.  

In 77 AD in Ancient Greece, Rhodiola was once experimented with by a physician named Dioscorides for medical uses. He named it Rodia Riza. 

It is also thought that it was once consumed by the Vikings who wanted to enhance their physical expertise. They consumed Rhodiola with the belief that it was going to boost their endurance and improve their abilities. 

In China, Rhodiola, also known as ‘Hong Jing Tian’ is thought to be a clever botanical plant that was once searched for by constituents who were sent by their emperor to source it from Siberia.

It was wanted for medicinal applications as it was thought that this plant could help to ease symptoms of the cold and flu. 

This plant has been used in several aspects of medicine for many years, and healers traditionally believed that it could help to treat more serious conditions too.

It is also relatively rare, hence why it is mainly found in areas and regions that are mountainous. 

The Uses of Rhodiola

Rhodiola is used to treat many health conditions and ailments, however, as we have touched upon, there is not a lot of scientific evidence to determine how effective this plant is when used in the following instances. 


In Europe and Asia in particular, Rhodiola has been used to treat fatigue that has been caused by stressful situations. It is thought that this plant possesses anti-stress properties and because of this it may be consumed by those who are experiencing sleep deprivation.

A specific extract of this plant is suggested to be effective in improving the wellbeing of those who often work night shifts and students. There are also other extracts that appear to ease mental fatigue.

The evidence regarding the plant’s effectiveness in this instance is quite conflicting. Some research suggests that it can improve the performance of individuals experiencing tiredness, whilst other research suggests that it does not work.


There is early research that implies that taking a daily dose of a specific extract of this plant can help to ease feelings of anxiety, whilst improving the moods of those who are experiencing a lot of stress. 

Improve physical performance

Again the evidence regarding the effectiveness of Rhodiola on physical performance is rather insufficient. It is thought that using this supplement regularly over a short period of time can help to improve physical performance.

Studies in Russia have been conducted to assess the performance of skiers who consumed Rhodiola around 30 to 60 minutes before participating in a competitive race.

The results indicated that the skiers who had taken Rhodiola delivered a stronger performance with better coordination. 

Altitude Sickness

In the Arctic and Himalayan areas, in traditional folk medicine, Rhodiola is sometimes used to treat acute altitude sickness. According to early research, Rhodiola that was taken by those living at higher altitudes helped with oxygen absorption.

However, it was only believed to be effective when taken in conjunction with another type of medication that specifically helps to ease altitude sickness. 

Resistance to physical and emotional stress

Extracts of Rhodiola have a long history of use as an adaptogen. An adaptogen refers to a herbal remedy that counteracts the impact of stress upon the body to improve its response to physical and emotional stress.

There is insufficient evidence to suggest whether Rhodiola does possess this quality, however, it is still believed to deliver similar benefits. 

Rhodiola is also used for several other purposes. For example, it is sometimes taken to help with heart disorders that have been triggered by stress, cholesterol, aging, diabetes, and sexual-related problems.

As with all of the uses that we have listed above, more studies need to be conducted and evidence needs to be produced to determine how effective this plant is in helping with any of these issues. 

The Benefits of Rhodiola

There are many science-based health benefits associated with taking Rhodiola. As this is a natural form of treatment it is thought that it can actively help to stimulate the activity of serotonin and dopamine.

However, the efficacy of each of these benefits cannot be confirmed until more research has been carried out to investigate the impact of this plant. 

Anti-aging effect

There are certain extracts of Rhodiola which are said to have an anti-aging effect.

The research into this effect upon humans is fairly limited, however, as this plant is suggested to have an impact upon reduced stress levels, it may help to delay the onset of aging too.

Research conducted as of yet has mainly assessed the effects on organisms that didn’t display any signs of slowed down physical activity or immune functionality. 


A study that has previously been conducted found that Rhodiola has a mild effect on depression. The impact was not believed to be as significant as a prescribed antidepressant medication such as sertraline, however, the results were still noticeable.

It is suggested that the properties of a Rhodiola plant help to positively balance the neurotransmitters inside your brain which can have a direct impact on your emotions. 

Eating Disorders

Rhodiola contains an ingredient that is believed to help with binge eating. This study has yet to be conducted on humans, so its exact impact remains unknown.

It is suggested that the ingredients inside this plant can help to reduce the levels of a particular stress hormone which can contribute to binge eating.

Improved brain function

There are many things that you can do yourself to maintain the strength and functionality of your brain. You can also take supplements such as extracts of a Rhodiola plant to improve brain function. 

Several studies that have been carried out on different groups of people in different situations evaluated the effects of this plant upon their functionality and performance.

For example, the first case involved participants that work overnight shifts. The group was split with some taking Rhodiola and others taking a placebo supplement. The results indicated that both groups benefited from improved mental capacity. 

Possible anti-cancer properties

Extracts of Rhodiola Rosea contain a component called Salidroside, both of which have anti-cancer properties. Because of this, it is thought that this plant may be an effective type of cancer treatment.

As there is not much in-depth research available to support this theory, it is unknown whether it has this effect on humans. Also, you shouldn’t opt for Rhodiola as an alternative to traditional types of cancer treatment.

What are the different forms of Rhodiola?


Supplements of this plant are available in multiple forms. For example, it can be taken as a tablet, capsule, or a beverage in the form of a tea.

The type that you choose will depend on which form you will find the easiest to consume.

Whilst some individuals may prefer the consistency of a tea, others may find it easier to take this supplement in tablet form as it is easier to manage the accuracy of the dosage. 

It is also worth noting that Rhodiola is at an increased risk of adulteration. This is because it is economically valuable and as a result, you may find that poorer quality variations are being produced and sold on the market.

To avoid purchasing an adulterated product, you should assess the labels on the packaging to ensure that it has an NSF, USP, or supplement facts label.

This will provide you with the assurance that the product has been tested for its safety and doesn’t contain any impurities.

It will also provide you with vital information regarding the ingredients inside the supplement and whether any additional fillers or flavors have been added to it. 

Are there any side effects of Rhodiola?

The side effects associated with the consumption of Rhodiola are pretty rare. Those who do have side effects are likely to experience them on a mild to moderate scale.

Some people may experience side effects that are similar to the flu, or increased irritability, blood pressure, or insomnia. Furthermore, some individuals may suffer from a headache, upset stomach, dizziness, or anxiety. 

If you combine Rhodiola with other types of medication, you may find that you become quite drowsy. 

Is Rhodiola safe?

There aren’t thought to be any serious risks connected to Rhodiola when taken on a short-term basis.

When taken for around 6 to 12 weeks, it is believed to be safe, however, due to the lack of research surrounding this plant, it is unknown whether it is safe to take over a prolonged period.

Because Rhodiola has an effect that is similar to that of a stimulant it is not recommended for use by those who have bipolar disorder, or those who are currently taking any other type of stimulative supplement or medication. 

Taking Rhodiola also isn’t recommended for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding. This is because there is not a lot of evidence available which shows that it is safe to consume during pregnancy or lactation.  

What is the recommended dosage of Rhodiola?

The dose of Rhodiola that you take will depend on why you require it, however, generally, the recommended dose for adults is between 100 and 300mg daily.

It is important to consult with your doctor or health care provider before taking this supplement particularly if you aren’t certain of the amount that you need.

Aside from this, you will also likely find that the packaging details the recommended dose for your age. The dosage that is going to deliver optimal results will be determined by the reason why you are taking it.   

Ideally, you should try to take the daily dosage of your Rhodiola supplement on an empty stomach, however, as it acts quite similar to a stimulant, you should avoid taking it just before you go to bed as it may disrupt your ability to enjoy a fulfilled night’s sleep.

Also remember that you aren’t likely to witness results from taking Rhodiola right away, in most cases, it can take around 6 to 12 weeks before any effects of it become apparent. 

Final Thoughts

For a long time, Rhodiola has been used for medical treatments and the history of the plant is proof of this. It is thought to help relieve stress, anxiety, and tiredness, whilst improving mental and physical performance, etc.

Although some studies have been carried out to investigate the effectiveness of Rhodiola on different conditions, the evidence in most cases is lacking and many of the studies do not indicate how humans would respond in certain scenarios. 

Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of taking Rhodiola for many people is the rare to mild side effects.

If you have any uncertainties as to whether Rhodiola is right for you, it is important to discuss your queries and concerns with a doctor beforehand.