Altitude Sickness; Female Sexual Function; Liver Protection; Male Sexual Function
The herb Rhodiola rosea has been used traditionally in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and other European countries as a “tonic herb,?said to fight fatigue, aid convalescence from illness, prevent infections, and enhance sexual function. In the twentieth century, Soviet physicians classified rhodiola as an adaptogen. This invented term refers to a hypothetical treatment described as follows: An adaptogen helps the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological stress. Furthermore, an adaptogen supposedly causes no side effects, treats a wide variety of illnesses, and helps return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong.
Perhaps the only indisputable example of an adaptogen is a healthful lifestyle. By eating right, exercising regularly, and generally living a life of balance and moderation, you will increase your physical fitness and ability to resist illnesses of all types. Multivitamin/multimineral supplements could offer similarly general benefits, at least in people whose diet is deficient in basic nutrients. Whether there are any herbs that offer adaptogenic benefits, however, remains unproven (and somewhat unlikely). Nonetheless, advocates of the adaptogen concept believe that rhodiola (as well as ginseng, ashwagandha, reishi, suma, and several other herbs) have this property.
What Is Rhodiola Used for Today? Rhodiola is currently marketed as the “new ginseng,?said to fight fatigue, enhance mental function, increase general wellness, improve sports performance, and enhance sex drive in both men and women. A few double-blind studies support the first two of these uses, finding that the use of rhodiola by people in stressful, fatiguing circumstances may help maintain normal mental function.
Rhodiola rosea meets the three defining criteria of an adaptogen: it causes minimal disturbance to the normal physiological function, the action is nonspecific, and it has normalizing action. There are numerous studies showing the positive effects of R. rosea on the central nervous system. R. rosea may affect many neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, including norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine. These are responsible for thinking, analyzing, evaluating, calculating, planning, and remembering. The antioxidant effects of R. rosea may help protect the nervous system from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Stress interferes with memory systems and causes deterioration of memory overtime. Numerous clinical studies have shown the psychostimulant effects of R. rosea. Moreover, a number of studies have shown that R. rosea increases physical work capacity and dramatically shortens the recovery time between periods of high-intensity exercise.
Rhodiola rosea has endocrine and reproductive effects. Animal studies show that R. rosea affected the thyroid gland, thymus gland, and adrenal glands. The glands functioned better without causing hypertrophy (increase in size). Studies have shown that R. rosea improves amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) in women and sexual dysfunction in men. Additional studies show that R. rosea protects the heart during emotional and physical stress. Animal studies indicate that R. rosea may have antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects.
Dosage Rhodiola extracts are standardized to their content of salidroside (also called rhodioloside). A typical dosage of 170?85 mg daily supplies 4.5 mg of salidroside. When rhodiola is used as a one-time treatment, two to three times this dose is often used.
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