Nootropic Review: Rhodiola Rosea

What it is
How it Works
My Protocol Moving Forward

Rhodiola Rosea has a long history of use as an adaptogenic herb, well known for its anti-stress, anti-fatigue, and cognitive enhancing effects. Recent studies have even shown that it also boasts other medicinal properties including anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-depressive, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. 

On the surface it seems like a miracle herb, but I wanted to see if Rhodiola could be used as a nootropic. By that I mean taking it only a few times a week and observing any short-term enhancements I may notice throughout the day, as opposed to taking it every day like many people and most studies do.

To be frank, it was a great success.

Mechanism

Before we get into my experience with Rhodiola I want to briefly discuss its mechanisms.

They aren’t fully fleshed out, but this is partly because this species of plant has well over 100 compounds in it. Some of its most notable mechanisms may include:

-MAO inhibition (increase in monoamines)
-Influence HPA axis (anti-stress)
-Increasing activity of endorphins (anti-stress)
-Scavenging of reactive oxygen species (anti-stress)

MAO inhibition sticks out to me the most (the brain is kinda my thing). Monoamine Oxidase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down monoamines in the brain (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine). 

Its inhibition leads to an increase of activity from those molecules since they aren’t being broken down. This is likely a large contributor to the antidepressant and cognitive enhancing effects of Rhodiola.

I could go on for a while, it really does so much, but in short Rhodiola works to help the body fight stress (physical and mental) and fatigue generally.

Rhodiola has 2 primary active components; Salisrosides and Rosavins. These are the two main “forms” you’ll see being sold.

This review was done with a high Salidrosides (3%) extract as they tend to be more stimulating, while its counterpart high in Rosavins is more relaxing. This choice was nothing more than a personal preference as to what I wanted to get out of Rhodiola. If you plan to try rhodiola and want a more calming experience, look into an extract high in Rosavins.

My Subjective Experience

Since I started using Rhodiola there have been 2 kinds of days for me:

  1. Those that I have super high energy all day
  2. And those that don’t take Rhodiola

That’s somewhat hyperbolic, but when I take Rhodiola my energy is sky high all day. Even after stressful, mentally taxing mornings doing surgeries (on mice) or other things that would normally wipe me out for a bit I still have extremely high levels of energy going into the late afternoon.

Over the course of my experimentation with this herb, I haven’t experienced a single true “afternoon crash”. Most I’ve felt when taking it is a slight energy dip. Not a crash, but a slight decrease for about an hour after lunch. Even then I maintain mental clarity and focus.

The crash I normally have isn’t entirely detrimental. It usually hinders my mental performance for about an hour after lunch, but it’s been great to be able to rid myself of it at will.

That’s really only a side benefit to taking Rhodiola though. The real upside is the mental clarity and energy it provides over the course of a whole day.

Looking back through my notes during this experimental phase that’s what stuck out to me the most. A lot of “I’ve never had so much energy while driving home” and “energy is still high into late afternoon”.

When I refer to the “energy” when taking Rhodiola it’s not just a mental feeling, it’s a physical manifestation. There’s a stark contrast to the “mental energy” that other nootropics provide by boosting acetylcholine or dopamine, and the sheer lack of fatigue I feel when taking Rhodiola. The best way I can describe it is by calling it a whole body energy.

That’s where Rhodiola truly shines in a nootropic context. The ability to shrug off stressor after stressor and still have immense amounts of energy to take on the rest of the day. It’s unlike any other nootropic or supplement I’ve ever tried.

On that same note, I did not observe an immediate effect when taking Rhodiola. It took about 4-5 hours for me to notice any effects when taken. This may be skewed because I had a cup of coffee everyday I took it though.

Well, not everyday. Once I tried to go cold turkey on caffeine using this as a way to counterbalance withdrawal induced fatigue. Didnt work one bit. Was tired all day and had a headache at points. Horrible failure of a test.

However, Rhodiola is highly synergistic in my experience. High energy in the morning fueled by caffeine, crash mitigated and energy extended by Rhodiola.

My Protocol Moving Forward

Based on my overwhelmingly positive experience with Rhodiola, it’s going to become a permanent addition to my supplement stack as a nootropic moving forward. I’ll outline my general use cases moving forward below:

-when I know I have an excessively busy day ahead of me (500mg)
-if I need/want high energy all day (500mg)

My specific use cases here are limited due to the nature of its effects, but Rhodiola will be an extremely effective tool for me moving forward.

I’d like to note that this isn’t the usual use case for Rhodiola. Based on both the literature and anecdotal reports it seems to be best used as a long-term supplement taken everyday to help the body deal better with stress and fatigue long-term.

My goal with this experimental phase was to test it in a ‘nootropic context’, meaning to observe its short-term effects on me throughout the day. 

In this context it was a great success for me. It’s not the average ‘nootropic’, but it works extremely well for me and I’ll continue to use it like this moving forward. 

However, I do plan to test it as a supplement in the near future, taking it every morning for ~4 weeks and seeing how it works. That’ll require its own “Supplement Review” in the future.

Conclusion

To sum it up, my experience with Rhodiola Rosea was fantastic. If I’m being honest I didn’t expect much from it at all when I ordered it. The first time I used it I was so shocked by the results I labeled it as a one off experience. There was no way it could be that great. Right?

I was wrong, it is that great. It’s 10 times better than I anticipated. The overall lack of mental and physical fatigue I feel is unmatched, and I’m still shocked by the amount of energy I have on my drives home at the end of the day when I take it.

Supplementary Info

Brand used: Nootropics Depot
Extract: 3% Salisroside
Form: Pills
Height & Weight for dosage comparison: 6’2, 190lbs

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