Rhodiola (Arctic Root) has more than proven its worth in helping us cope with stress since it came to the fore more than 20 years ago.
When I first wrote about Rhodiola, I referred to it as ‘a modern day herb’, useful for helping us cope with life in the 21st Century. We are now living in very stressful times and Rhodiola has never been more relevant.
When we live continually stressful lives, we upset the bodily chemicals and hormones within that control our sense of purpose and feeling of wellbeing.
Our adrenal glands help us cope with stress and they are designed to help us deal both long-term and sudden stress.
In an emergency, when we are exposed to threat, danger or harm, our adrenals release hormones that trigger the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that enables us to respond.
Our heart rate increases, breathing gets faster, we perspire more, and blood flow to the heart and large skeletal organs increases to prepare us for fight or flight.
The blood flow to non-urgent body functions such as digestion is temporarily decreased.
Unfortunately, these days, many people feel as if they are living their lives under constant threat.
The adrenals respond to this by maintaining a state of alert and emergency within our body. Our heart rate and breathing increase, we are unable to relax, and our blood flow is diverted away from digestion, and this important function may become weakened or impaired.
We continue to try to work and live as normal while our body exists in a continuous state of alert.
Tension, anxiety, and worry are the outcome of all this. The adrenals are overworking and they are no longer able to balance stress effectively.
Our sleep becomes affected and exhaustion sets in. Serotonin is the hormone within our brain that dictates our outlook and sense of happiness. Exhausted adrenals negatively impact on serotonin levels which leads to negative thinking, increased unhappiness, and a depressed state of mind.
Living life stressfully negatively affects both our mental and physical wellbeing. We are inevitably on the road to burnout if stress is allowed to continue unchecked.
Adaptogenic herbs have long been used to help with both our response to and recovery from stress. Rhodiola is one such adaptogenic herb and acts mainly on the adrenal glands, helping to rebalance their hormonal response to ongoing stress.
Rhodiola also exerts a positive effect on serotonin levels in the brain, so it also helps provide us with a brighter and happier outlook.
The herb has undergone much research and has been demonstrated to be useful in boosting physical energy, improving mental alertness, concentration, memory, regulating sleep patterns, alleviating depression and anxiety, and calming many of the physical symptoms of stress.
Rhodiola is helpful too for people beyond those living with stress. Students and those studying long hours for exams find it useful for concentration and memory, athletes and those pushing their body through endurance events find it useful for stamina and energy.
Women often find it useful for helping with menopausal anxiety and depression.
The herb often comes combined with Ashwagandha in supplement form – this is also an adaptogenic herb, which hails from ayurvedic medicine.
It helps our body to cope with stress in much the same way as Rhodiola. The difference between the two herbs is that while Rhodiola exerts a more stimulating and energising effect, Ashwagandha tends to be more relaxing and calming.
Taken together, the two herbs can work in synergy to provide a more focused, calm and stabilised energy throughout the day.
Note that Rhodiola should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women, and cannot be taken alongside anti-depressant medication, and Ashwagandha should not be taken by those with auto-immune conditions, or those taking immune-suppressing medication.