Rhodiola rosea is the fragrant root of an herb believed to have adaptogenic properties. That is, it helps the body adapt to internal and external stressors.

The root grows in northern climates at high altitudes in such places as Asia, Europe, and Alaska. Also called golden root, arctic root, and roseroot, Rhodiola rosea has been used medicinally for centuries. Regions that have historically used the herb include Russia, Scandinavia, Greece, and middle Asia.

The extract commonly serves as an enhancement supplement, increasing performance and endurance. It’s also thought to decrease fatigue, stress, and depression. As well, it’s been used to treat infections, nervous system disorders, and even cancer.

Rhodiola rosea is a safe-for-most supplement that is generally either beneficial or benign.

Rhodiola rosea is taken in either capsule or liquid form. It’s also an ingredient in some teas. Many supplement stores and online retailers distribute the extract directly to consumers.

Dosages for Rhodiola rosea vary widely, ranging from 100 milligrams (mg) to 680 mg daily. It’s recommended that you start with a low dosage and work your way up, increasing the dose by just 100 mg per week.

The types of Rhodiola rosea used in clinical trials contained 2 to 3 percent rosavin and 0.8 to 1 percent salidroside. When looking for this supplement, purchase the products that have this breakdown, as they’ve been more widely tested.

Rhodiola rosea is believed to have myriad benefits, ranging from weight loss to increased mood. This natural herb has been used as a folk remedy for centuries to treat countless ailments. While there aren’t yet numerous clinical trials detailing the results of taking Rhodiola rosea, some have found it helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Helps physical and mental fatigue

It may alleviate physical and mental fatigue by increasing your red blood cell count. A higher count carries more oxygen to your muscles and decreases inflammation. These benefits can be helpful for both athletes and the general public. It may allow people to be more productive, as mental fatigue is a common ailment in the 21st century. Rhodiola rosea could help you stay alert and focused on the task at hand.

Reduces effects of depression

The Rhodiola rosea root may also lessen the effects of depression, including in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). Due to its benign nature, those who are averse to trying traditional antidepressants may find relief with Rhodiola rosea. The herb may increase serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters that affect concentration, memory, and mood.

Improves physical endurance

Rhodiola rosea is also used to improve physical endurance. A study showed that during submaximal (less than maximum capacity) exercise, short-term ingestion of this root can decrease your heart rate. Using this supplement also is thought to reduce recovery time after a workout. These beneficial effects may mean that you may be able to work out longer and more frequently.

Aids in weight loss

Rhodiola rosea has shown some promise in its ability to help decrease body fat and aid in weight reduction. Visceral fat, or internal abdominal fat, can be dangerous. Taking this root in conjunction with performing moderate exercise has been shown to break down visceral fat. This is due to the active compound rosavin, which stimulates lipase, an enzyme that breaks down fat.

There are no known complications or potential risks with Rhodiola rosea. Some report feeling jittery from the supplement. This side effect may outweigh any benefits for some individuals.

As with most supplements, Rhodiola rosea hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Studies about its effectiveness and potential complications are therefore minimal. However, clinical trials on both mice and humans resulted in no adverse effects. The most common negative effect of the supplement is a lack of efficacy.

Also, keep in mind it’s possible to be allergic to any herb or supplement.

There are no major side effects with Rhodiola rosea. Any herb or supplement carries risk, however. Dosages, quality, purity, and safety aren’t consistent and aren’t monitored by the FDA or other regulating agency.

The longer the use of any supplement, the greater the accumulated potential risk.

If you take Rhodiola rosea in place of other treatment options, you may be bypassing care that would provide greater benefit. Rhodiola rosea is safest when used under the supervision of your doctor.

Rhodiola rosea has a number of potential health benefits, and very few potential side effects. While more research is needed, preliminary studies have shown positive signs that Rhodiola rosea holds up to the anecdotal evidence that has been assembled for several hundred years.

Jitteriness is the most common side effect. If you experience jitteriness or other unpleasant side effects, stop taking it or decrease your dosage.