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Rhodiola Rosea May Relieve Stress and Protect the Ageing Brain

Posted on 10 August 2020

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Rhodiola rosea is a herb used in some traditional medicine. It appears to be an anti-fatigue agent and an adaptogen: it can reduce the physical and chemical effects of stress.

Why Might Rhodiola Rosea Be Beneficial?

High levels of stress are associated with more rapid age-related decline, such as increased inflammation and reduced immune function, which in turn is associated with increased risk of developing age-related chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Likewise, ageing can negatively affect stress resilience.

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Rhodiola appears to significantly reduce the fatigue that results from stress and anxiety, and may thereby aid cognitive performance. Supplementation also seems to reduce stress and anxiety themselves (possibly a secondary effect to fatigue reduction). As such, supplementation may slow aspects of the ageing process, particularly in those who are vulnerable to stress and anxiety. Animal studies also point to potential longevity benefits: preliminary (non-mammalian) research suggests a 20% increase in lifespan, though studies in mammals and humans are still needed.

There is preliminary evidence that rhodiola rosea is highly neuroprotective against toxins and oxidants that are increasingly produced with age. Supplementation may therefore protect against neurodegeneration, however more evidence is needed to confirm this.

What Is The Evidence Behind Rhodiola?

Multiple randomised controlled trials seem to suggest that rhodiola rosea has quite a strong fatigue-reduction effect. However, evidence is not entirely consistent: different methods for measuring fatigue may have made results more variable. Furthermore, a systematic review and meta-analysis suggested that while there was evidence that the herb could alleviate fatigue, all eleven of the included studies were deemed to have either a high risk of bias or included methodological flaws that reduced their validity.

Studies have found rhodiola rosea to increase lifespan in C. elegans worms and in fruit flies by 20% and 24% respectively, suggesting its lifespan-extending effects are worthy of further investigation in mammals.

Lifespan extension by R.rosea in fruit flies.
Schriner, S., Lee, K., Truong, S., Salvadora, K., Maler, S., & Nam, A. et al. (2013). Extension of Drosophila Lifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a Mechanism Independent from Dietary Restriction. Plos ONE8(5), e63886. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063886

Salidroside, a component of rhodiola rosea, has been found to have a number of neuroprotective effects in animals, including improved neuron regeneration, and protection against hypoglycemia and oxidative stress. This appears to be at least partly due to salidroside’s ability to induce the production of anti-oxidant enzymes.

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    References Rhodiola Rosea:

    Stress, Inflammation and Aging: doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31826573cf

    Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review: doi: 10.1146/

    Neuroprotective effects of salidroside against beta-amyloid-induced oxidative stress in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells: DOI: 10.1016/j.neuint.2010.06.021

    Protective effect of salidroside against H2O2-induced cell apoptosis in primary culture of rat hippocampal neurons: DOI: 10.1007/s11010-009-0177-3

    Salidroside promotes peripheral nerve regeneration following crush injury to the sciatic nerve in rats: DOI: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32835eb867

    Plant adaptogens increase lifespan and stress resistance in C. elegans: DOI: 10.1007/s10522-008-9151-9

    Extension of Drosophila lifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a mechanism independent from dietary restriction: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063886

    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: DOI: 10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80055-0

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