Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
Rhodiola rosea is an herb traditionally used in Eastern European and Asian medicine. An adaptogen, rhodiola supports the body’s ability to manage various stressors.
Traditionally, rhodiola has been used during or after periods of stress to promote cognitive and physical vitality, balance mood, enhance work performance, ease fatigue, and more. *
As an adaptogen, rhodiola works primarily by influencing the hypothalamus, a brain region that controls metabolism and energy (thyroid), reaction to stress (adrenals), and reproductive functions (testes/ovaries). In short, anything and everything that happens in the body goes through the HPA axis. Rhodiola helps:
Rhodiola is associated with promoting sexual desire in both men and women. Its energizing and stress-modulating properties help balance the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates hormones and sexuality.
Rhodiola may also affect sexual vitality by improving mood. Research suggests this herb influences the mood-regulating neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin, all of which are key to sexual function and libido.
In the nervous system, rhodiola also influences beta-endorphins. These opioid neuropeptides and peptide hormones are associated with sexual behavior, and they’re important for regulating stress. By modulating symptoms of stress, we can often increase feelings of sexuality.
In women, a 2016 study found that rhodiola helps address the cognitive, cardiovascular, psychological, cardiovascular, and bone mass decline associated with menopause.
Rhodiola is a favorite adaptogen of athletes and workers for improving stamina, supporting normal cardiovascular function, and maintaining alertness. Traditionally, rhodiola was used to maintain work tolerance at high altitudes, and research suggests that it may promote healthy oxygen delivery to tissues, especially the heart. Rhodiola also offers significant support for the immune system.
Side effects: Rhodiola is well tolerated for most people. Some people experience a mild stimulating effect. Other possible mild side effects include sleep disturbances and nervousness. Because rhodiola is an energizing adaptogen, it should be used with caution by individuals with sleep issues or who are overcoming health adversity. Like many herbs, rhodiola has mild blood thinning properties; if you are taking prescription blood thinners, consult your healthcare provider before taking rhodiola.
1. Kelly GS et al. Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. 2001 Jun;6(3):293-302.
2. Gerbarg PL et al. Pause menopause with Rhodiola rosea, a natural selective estrogen receptor modulator. Phytomedicine. 2016 Jun 15;23(7):763-9.
3. Noreen, Eric E., et al. 2013. The effects of an Acute Dose of Rhodiola on Endurance Exercise Performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 27(3):839-847.
4. De Bock, K., et al. 2004. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 14(3):298-307
5. Spasov AA, et al. 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.
6. Darbinyan, V., et al. 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