Rhodiola Rosea : Natural Adderall Alternative

Rhodiola Rosea
Photo credit: Badagnani

Rhodiola Rosea, an adaptogen derived from a plant, has stress reduction, mood enhancing and nootropic qualities and is considered as a natural alternative to Adderall. Rhodiola is known by a number of names according to the area in which it is found (Golden root, rose root, Aaron’s rod, and king’s crown).

Rhodiola typically grows at high altitudes and in cold regions and it is the second most popular adaptogen after Ginko Biloba. Its root has been used in traditional medicine in Russia and the Scandinavian countries for centuries and it is still widely used in Russia as a tonic and remedy for fatigue, poor attention span and for improving memory.

Rhodiola has been shown to reduce fatigue and exhaustion resulting from situations of prolonged stressful situations. Rhodiola has also been shown to be neuro-protective against toxins (requires more evidence) .


Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements popular in Ayurvedic medicine that are known to restore balance to the body. Adaptogens are thought to have a normalizing effect on the body with widespread psychological benefits. Adaptogens are commonly used in the treatment of anxiety and depression.

How Rhodiola Rosea Works

Rhodiola extracts have been shown in animal studies to help protect cells from damage, regulate heartbeat, and have the potential for improving learning and memory.

It is known to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain while also preventing their breakdown.

One of the primary methods of action for this supplement is through the stimulation of a specific class of enzymes known as AMPK .

In animal studies it has been shown to aid the release of Norepinephrine, a powerful neurotransmitter which is responsible for attention and alertness. Norepinephrine is associated with feelings of intense energy, motivation and focus. Higher levels of norepinephrine can also combat the effects of aging and prevent senile dementia. [1]

While salidrosides are found in all species of rhodiola, only R. rosea contains rosavins (rosavin, rosin, and rosarin). “Approximately 51% of all animal studies and 94% of all human studies conducted on plants in the genus rhodiola are on the species R. rosea,” notes health journalist Carl Germano, RD, CNS, LDN. He adds, “Only R. rosea has passed extensive toxicological studies and has been certified safe for both animals and humans.” [1]

Rhodiola improves mental performance through its anti-fatigue effects. It can boost concentration and focus among healthy subjects as well as those suffering from chronic fatigue or related issues. These results have been backed up by clinical studies which have shown a wide range of benefits. [2]


  • Reduces effects and feelings of stress
  • Reduces symptoms of depression
  • Promotes feelings of general well being
  • Reduces Fatigue
  •  Effect can Improve Energy and Alertness (Mild Stimulant)
  • Some Evidence of Cognitive Enhancement
  • Enhances healthy sleep
  • Relieves feelings of anxiety

Tieraona Low Dog, M.D says that it is one of her favorite herbs for treatment of patients suffering from “21st century stress”: fatigue, mental fog, trouble concentrating, low energy and, perhaps, mild depression. She recommends using a standardized extract. Look for products that are similar to those studied in clinical trials containing 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside. Start with 100 mg once a day for a week and then increase the dosage by 100 mg every week, up to 400 mg a day, if needed. Dr. Low Dog notes that while studies suggest that rhodiola reduces anxiety, some people might feel “revved” up from it.  – Dr. Weil



Rhodiola RoseaStudies using proofreading tests have demonstrated that Rhodiola Rosea enhances memorization and concentration ability over prolonged periods. It increases the bio electrical activity of the brain which improves memory and brain energy. [2]

Rhodiola and Stress Relief

Rhodiola Rosea relieves stress by balancing the body’s stress-response system. This consists of the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares the body to expend energy during crises, often described as the “fight or flight response”) and the counterbalancing parasympathetic nervous system (which recharges and heals the body, returning it to a relaxed state). With constant stress, the system becomes unbalanced, making us feel edgy, tired, or depressed. Rhodiola rosea  helps re-establish balance by acting as an adaptogen—an agent that strengthens the body’s response to physical, mental, and emotional stressors. [3]

Rhodiola enhances the body’s tolerance to stress by influencing key brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, and natural feel-good opioids such as beta-endorphins.

Reducing Fatigue

A number of studies have shown that rhodiola can reduce mental and physical fatigue caused by stressful conditions by increasing the body’s energy levels. One study showed that at a low dose 0f 170mg per day given to 56 young physicians on night call, when there is notable decrease in physical and mental performance. Using measures of cognitive and memory function, such as associative thinking, short-term memory, calculation, and speed of audiovisual perception, the researchers found a statistically significant reduction of stress-induced fatigue after just two weeks of supplementation with rhodiola. [4]

According to Dr. Richard Brown of Columbia University, rhodiola is exceptionally beneficial because it “enhances the healing properties of one’s own nervous system.” He notes that the herb provides both “cognitive stimulation” and “emotional calming,” which lead to improvement in cognitive and memory function, as well as contributing to the long-term upkeep of brain function.[5]


Physical Endurance

Rhodiola also helps in improving physical endurance. In one study, the energy-boosting effect of small and medium doses of rhodiola was observed in animals that demonstrated greater strength to endure the “swim test”—a physically and mentally stressful test in which a rodent is put into a beaker of water and observed to see how long it can keep its head above water.[6] Tests have shown that performance improvements are in the range of 25% . [7]

Healthy young adults who consumed 200 mg of rhodiola extract one hour before exercise significantly increased their capacity for endurance exercise.[8]

Side Effects

Rhodiola is possibly safe when taken by mouth, for short periods of time (for up to 6-10 weeks). The safety of long-term has not been studied. The potential side effects of rhodiola are not known.

Rhodiola is generally considered safe and well tolerated. Side effects are mild and rare but these may include:

anxiety, agitation, nausea, hyper-salivation, restlessness, and insomnia.

Pregnant and women who are breast feeding should stay on the safe side and avoid use, as there is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking Rhodiola if you are pregnant or nursing.


The typical daily dosage for Rhodiola is between 100-400mg of a standardized extract and it is best taken without food. Higher dosages tend to be less effective than lower dosages. Usage of Rhodiola as a daily preventative against fatigue has been reported to be effective in doses as low as 50mg. Since Rhodiola Rosea is considered to be a mild stimulant it should be used with caution.

Due to its energizing effect it should be taken first in the morning or early in the afternoon.



One study has found that some commercial Rhodiola products may be diluted or otherwise adulterated so do your research as to which brands contain what they promise.

Studies show that Rhodiola is effective in improving cognitive function in persons who experience a reduction in fatigue, but there is not enough evidence to support cognitive improvment in non-fatigued individuals.

Because of its energy boosting , stress relieving and adaptogenic properties, Rhodiola Rosea is a good supplement to add to an existing nootropic stack.



1. Rhodiola Rosea for More Energy, Less Stress and Better Moods  http://nootriment.com/rhodiola-rosea/

2. Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4.

3. Kelly GS. Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Jun;6(3):293-302.

4. Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, et al. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue—a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine. 2000 Oct;7(5):365-71.

5. Brown R, Gerbarg P, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview. Herbalgram. 2002;56:40-52.

6. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL (w/Graham B). The Rhodiola Revolution: Transform Your Health with the Herbal Breakthrough of the 21st Century. Emmaus, PA: Rodale; 2004.

7. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307

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