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By David Kiefer, MD
Source: Noreen EE, et al. The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res 2013;27:839-847.
Most commonly used for general whole body support, insomnia, and anxiety, the herbal adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea, or roseroot, is also used to combat physical fatigue, the focus of this double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled research study. Eighteen research participants were recruited from a college spinning class and given one 3 mg/kg dose of a Rhodiola rosea extract or placebo, and then analyzed for endurance exercise performance, mood, perceived exertion, and cognition. The Rhodiola rosea was in a powdered form and standardized for 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside, and dosed as per prior work on this topic. Statistically significant results were seen in the treatment group, including a faster 6-mile bike time trial (24 seconds faster, P = 0.034), slower heart rate during the warm up (4 beats per minute slower, P = 0.0001), and a lower rating of perceived exertion (P = 0.04), though other parameters including blood lactate and salivary cortisol and amylase, were equivalent statistically. The researchers compare these results to those of prior studies, corroborating physical benefits with one-time dosing of Rhodiola rosea, which the researchers and prior evidence tie to increases in endogenous opioid production. What is unclear, and not addressed by this study, is the effect of chronic Rhodiola rosea ingestion, which apparently may lose a positive effect in humans while it seems to function in this capacity in animals. Overall, these results are intriguing in that they point to short-term benefits, albeit Spartan and not necessarily clinically meaningful, for an herbal medicine otherwise thought of as a long-term adaptogen.