Friday, 14 December 2018

Rhodiola to Combat Fatigue

Article & Photo by Ann Walker
Rhodiola (R. rosea) root has been used traditionally in Scandinavian countries and Russia as a “tonic herb,” to combat fatigue. These days it is regarded by herbalists as an ‘adaptogen’ – i.e., it has the potential to help the body cope with various types of stress including extremes of temperature, sleep deprivation, psychological stress etc. In support of these traditional uses, there are some randomised, controlled clinical studies on the herb. One of these, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 56 doctors working on night duty, found that after taking rhodiola daily for two weeks, their thought processes, including mental arithmetic, were sharper, than those taking placebo (PMID: 11081987). In a similarly-designed study of 161 sleep-deprived army cadets, it was found that those taking rhodiola coped better with the fatigue than those on placebo (PMID: 12725561).

While these results appear impressive, they were undertaken in former Soviet Union republics, which were notorious for excessively positive results in clinical trials. However, a more recent a study on rhodiola was reported from the University of Surrey (PMID: 26502953). This was on eighty volunteers with anxiety, who were randomized to take either rhodiola extract daily or no treatment. After two weeks, those on rhodiola reported better mood with less anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression. Unfortunately, this study did not include placebo treatment - no treatment is not placebo treatment – and it is important to remember that placebo has proven therapeutic benefit in many clinical trials. Whilst we still await the definitive study on rhodiola, it can still be used based on traditional use. Rhodiola supplements with traditional herbal registrations (THR) are on general sale in the EU. The British Herbal Medicine Association is always a good starting point to find a quality herbal product.

PMID = PubMed identifier

Ann Walker PhD, FCPP, MNIMH, RNutr
Course Director DHM
Herbal Practitioner