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Updated: Jun 4, 2019

I would like to talk about something you likely have never heard of, adaptogens. An adaptogen is a natural substance that acts on multiple systems of the body. They are plants that contain bioactive compounds that act as metabolic regulators. They are thought to increase resistance against multiple stressors (biological, chemical, or physical), normalizes physiology (whether a body parameter is too high or too low, the adaptogen should bring it towards normal), and does not disturb normal body functions more than necessary to improve stress resistance. In essence, adaptogens can be used to enhance mood, energy, and physical and mental performance under stress in healthy individuals as well as those with fatigue, cognitive impairments, or memory disorders. One particular adaptogen I want to discuss is Rhodiola Rosea (Golden Root, Arctic Root, or Roseroot).

*** Disclaimer ***

I am not a physician or psychiatrist, and I cannot provide individual recommendations or prescribe medicine for your personal issues. When I discuss adaptogens and some possible benefits of using them, I am referring to conditions in general discussed in research, and not specifically to you. No person is alike, and you should never start taking herbal supplements without discussing it with your physician. In other words, for example, if I say a particular herbal supplement may be helpful for treating mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.) according to research, I am not suggesting you go and start taking that supplement. Again, you always want to consult your doctor as some of these can have mild to severe side effects.

What is Rhodiola

Rhodiola Rosea is an plant that typically grows in high Arctic mountainous regions in the world. It is plant that grows low on the ground, a creeper plant. It’s wildly considered to be the most potent when grown in the Siberian Mountains, though it grows all over.

History of use

Rhodiola use dates back thousands of years. We know that the ancient Greeks used it because in 77 A.D Greek physician Dioscorides documented its medical applications, calling it Rodia Riza, in his text De Materia Medica. The Vikings also used Rhodiola for its health benefits. They used it to enhance their physical strength and endurance, while the Chinese emperors sent expeditions to Siberia to bring back “the golden root” for medicinal preparations. And in Mongolia, physicians prescribed it for tuberculosis and cancer.

Much of the research on Rhodiola has been done in Russia when the USSR was trying to compete with he West in all things military, space exploration, science, Olympic sports, etc. Dr. Lazarev and Dr. Brekhman tested 158 herbal folk remedies and found that some of them contained extracts from plants with exceptional abilities to promote what they described as “a state of nonspecific increased resistance,” coining the term “adaptogen” to describe this special class of herbs that help the body adapt to unfavorable conditions, from combat, space travel, Olympic competition, to everyday stress.

My experience

My experience with Rhodiola has been a mixed-bag. To frame it, let me explain why I began using Rhodiola. Since I moved to Wisconsin in 2007, I have struggled with seasonal depression towards the middle of September, all the way up to around May. I never experienced this before when I lived in West Virginia.

I’ve tried many different things to treat my seasonal depression over the years, always avoiding prescription medication because I felt the potential side effects outweighed the benefits. I’ve tried many different vitamins, to mixed results. I eventually purchased a sun lamp and have found that effective. The only problem is that I struggle to get in daily morning sessions with the sun lamp, and as a result, its effectiveness decreases. So, I did more research, and during a training session on non-traditional medicine, I learned about adaptogens, and more specifically, Rhodiola Rosea.

I’ve found that Rhodiola 100% takes away my seasonal depression and the accompanying side effects. I find another adaptogen slightly more effective for stress, which I will talk about next month. Rhodiola also takes away my fatigue and brain fog, and actually leaves me cheerful and full of energy. These results, for me, happen in 1-2 days. That is not possible with any prescription medication that I’m aware of… However, these great results are brand and dose specific. I’ve had some brands that give me great results, and when I can no longer find that brand and have to try a new one, I may find no benefit at all. Or worse (maybe?), is if I take more Rhodiola than I can handle, then the side effects it sometimes gives me is insomnia, heart palpitations, and a tad bit of agitation, like I drank way too much coffee. I currently cannot tolerate more than 150MG of Rhodiola per day.

What it can treat

I originally intended to provide dosage information for each of these conditions, but I decided against it as I do not want to encourage you to start dosing yourself without consulting your doctor. Instead, I decided to share some common conditions Rhodiola Rosea is thought to help treat.

General Brain health

Improve memory

Neurodegenerative diseases, brain injury, and ADD

High blood pressure


Bipolar disorder with moderate (not extreme) mood swings and who is taking mood stabilizers


Day-to-day stress

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder


Chronic fatigue syndrome


Sexual disfunction

Hormonal imbalance

Immune booster

Aid in weight loss

Side effects

Generally considered very safe unless the dosage exceeds 20,000 MG. Some side effects are feeling agitated, jittery, or wired. Also make sure to avoid stimulants like soda, black tea, and coffee. Intense dreams within the first 2 weeks is also a possibility. Possible nausea can be treated with some ginger. For people with bipolar disorder (manic depression), Rhodiola may induce mania. Rhodiola may also cause headaches in some people. Some possible interactions may occur with stimulating medications. Use with caution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Should be sold as Rhodiola Rosea, not anything else added. Also, it should have 3 percent rosins and 1.0 percent salidrosides, the exact ratio found naturally in the roots, a 3:1 ratio. The pills do not need refrigeration. It is best absorbed on an empty stomach, 20-30 minutes before a meal or 2 hours afterwards. It is also recommended to take in the morning before breakfast or lunch due to its stimulating nature. I’ll leave any further discussion between you and your physician.

My favorite brands of Rhodiola Rosea:

NutraChamps (300 MG/Pill - high dose, so you may have to divide the pill, but good value)

Amazon -

NutraChamps website -

Ameriden International (100 MG/Pill)

Amazon -

Ameriden website -

Gaia Herbs (120 MG/Pill)

Amazon -

Local Stores:

The Free Market

734 W Wisconsin Ave, Appleton, WI 54914

Irresistibly Healthy LLC

3402 N Richmond St, Appleton, WI 54911

Natural Healthy Concepts

310 N Westhill Blvd, Appleton, WI 54914

Appleton Nutrition

2000, 297 W Northland Ave, Appleton, WI 54911

The Vitamin Shoppe

4359 W Wisconsin Ave, Appleton, WI 54913


4301 W Wisconsin Ave, Appleton, WI 54913


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