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Rhodiola Rosea for Adrenal Fatigue and High Cortisol

By Victoria Weinblatt

Rhodiola rosea is an herbal dietary supplement, and its active ingredients grow underground. Cortisol is a hormone your adrenal gland secretes in response to stress. Rhodiola rosea may reduce the secretion of cortisol in stressful situations. As with all herbal supplements, consult with a health-care professional before taking Rhodiola rosea to reduce your risk of adverse events.

Rhodiola Rosea

Russians use Rhodiola rosea as an herbal adaptogen, which helps them to resist and adapt to chemical, environmental and physical stress. Of the 20 known genera of Rhodiola, rosea is the only species with healing properties, according to a paper by Dr. Zakir Ramazanov, Ph.D., and Dr. Howard Peiper, N.D. One of the principal effects of Rhodiola rosea is its ability to decrease cortisol secretion. Cortisol can have a number of effects on your body, including depleting the potassium your body needs to relax your heart muscle.


Your adrenal gland produces cortisol. People sometimes call it the “stress hormone” because it regulates changes in your body in response to stress. These changes include your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and heart contractions, as well as your fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Too much cortisol in your body inhibits your brain’s ability to remember things; that’s why confusion increases in stressful moments.

Efficacy of Rhodiola Rosea

Emerging evidence associates Rhodiola rosea with cognitive and mood support, according to a summary of accumulated scientific information on Rhodiola rosea from the Swedish Herbal Institute in Sweden and reported in the June 2010 issue of “Phytomedicine.” Researchers isolated about 140 compounds from the roots and root hairs – called rhizomes. In the studies, subjects taking Rhodiola rosea extracts experienced positive outcomes, including neuroprotective, cardioprotective and antidepressive effects, as well as reduced fatigue and increased lifespan. Subjects also had a reduced cortisol response to stress. Researchers found a lack adverse reactions from Rhodiola rosea and a lack of interaction with other drugs.

Fatigue Syndrome

Rhodiola rosea decreases your adrenal glands' secretion of cortisol to reduce “awakening stress” in people with fatigue syndrome, according to a study from Uppsala University in Sweden and reported in the February 2009 issue of the journal “Planta Medica.” Subjects diagnosed with fatigue syndrome between the ages of 20 and 55 took 576 mg of Rhodiola rosea per day for 28 days. Compare to placebo, the Rhodiola rosea group experienced a decrease in cortisol response, a significant anti-fatigue effect and an increased ability to concentrate. No serious side effects to Rhodiola rosea were reported.

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