The Health Benefits of Rhodiola
The bodies ability to effectively adapt to stress is the hallmark sign of successful health. There are certain performance aids that help our bodies modulate the stress response and adapt effectively. These substances are called adaptogens for their remarkable ability to enhance stress adaptation. Rhodiola is one the most well-studied adaptogens and its effects on human health are remarkable.
Rhodiola or Golden root grows in some of the coldest regions of the world. This includes much of the Artic and mountainous regions in Central Asia and the Appalachian mountains in North America. It has also been found in Iceland, Scandinavia and mountainous regions of Europe.
Mountains regions typically face both extreme heat (because they are closer to the sun) and extreme cold. Plants that are able to survive such harsh temperaments have unique adaptive qualities that benefit those who consume them.
Powerful Anti-Oxidant Compounds:
Rhodiola contains a number of powerful anti-oxidants including the glycosides (rosavin, rosin, rosarin) and flavonoids (rodiosin, rodionin, rodiolin, quercetin, proanthocyanidins, acetylrodaglin, kaempferol), monoterpenes, triterpenes and phenolic acids such as chlorogenic and gallic acid. This unique array of phytonutrients allows rhodiola to adapt to stressful environmental conditions and it helps modulate our ability to withstand daily stressors.
Rhodiola helps us adapt to stress by modulating stress hormone levels (1). When stress hormone goes too high it can leave us edgy and anxious. Overtime, it leads to fatigue, lethargy and chronic disease. Rhodiola prevents our stress hormones from going up too high at inappropriate times. This allows our stress response system to remain strong and sensitive to the needs of our environment.
Boosting Nervous System Function:
Scientists have found that rhodiola enhances serotonin, dopamine and endorphin activity within the brain (2, 3). Healthy serotonin levels are necessary to balance our mood and keep us calm and positive. Dopamine drives us towards accomplishing goals and enhances our self-esteem and confidence. Endorphins help us to feel good and lift our mood and spirits.
Rhodiola is known to help people calm their emotions and stimulate cognitive processes that improve memory and creative thinking (4, 5). Several studies have shown that rhodiola improves associative thinking, speed of audiovisual perception and ability to perform complex calculations (6). Researchers also found that it significantly reduced stress-induced fatigue after just two weeks of regular usage (7).
Rhodiola is a Potent Performance Enhancer:
Adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola enhance muscle glycogen synthesis. This is the stored sugar within muscle that allows the body to work with greater endurance during stressful periods. This enhances exercise and performance during challenging workouts and competitions. Athletes are able to improve strength, speed and endurance and perform at higher levels with adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola (8, 9)
A 2010 study showed that rhodiola supplementation improved the usage of fatty acids as fuel during training session and improved athletic adaptation to stress (10). This herb lowered levels of lactate and skeletal muscle damage after exhaustive exercise.
This was due to the ability of rhodiola to improve circulation and modulate stress hormone secretion both during and after the training sessions. Rhodiola is completely safe and approved for usage by athletes in all major sports.
Rhodiola and Weight Loss:
Rhodiola has also been shown to stimulate fat burning mechanisms (11, 12). This is due to its effect at stimulating the enzyme adipose lipase that mobilizes fatty acids as energy source. Rhodiola helps the body preserve sugar as stored energy in the form of glycogen and burn fat as a primary energy source during times of rest and low level activity. This metabolic shift is essential for healthy weight management and blood sugar stability.
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