Rhodiola may one day have a place in the fitness world as an exercise supplement, but the verdict is still out on any benefits for weight loss.

Losing weight can be challenging, and it’s natural to wonder whether there’s something out there that can give you a little boost during the process.

Herbal supplements are popular weight-loss aids. Many are inexpensive and accessible without a prescription. However, even some of the most widely studied herbs lack enough evidence to support all their health claims.

Rhodiola is no exception. It has some promising research behind it, but there’s no conclusive evidence to show that it will reduce unwanted body fat.

Rhodiola rosea is an herb found at high altitudes in cold areas of Asia and Europe.

It’s been used traditionally in Scandinavian and Russian regions to treat fatigue, altitude intolerance, and weakness, and to improve overall physical endurance and output.

There’s no definitive proof that Rhodiola will make you lose weight, but preliminary research suggests there are reasons Rhodiola could be used to support a weight loss plan.

Reduction of visceral belly fat

According to a 2013 rodent-based study, Rhodiola in a mixture with citrus aurantium (bitter orange) helped reduce visceral white adipose tissue in rats experiencing diet-induced obesity.

The herbal combination also increased levels of hypothalamic norepinephrine and frontal cortex dopamine, chemicals able to influence biological processes promoting weight loss.

White adipose tissue makes up the majority of your body fat and is responsible for energy storage, insulin sensitivity, and endocrine functions. Visceral white adipose tissue is located inside the abdomen, adjacent to or surrounding your internal organs.

The findings were specific to the combination of Rhodiola and citrus aurantium, however, and researchers note they believe it was the novel interaction of the two extracts that produced results.

Improved weight-related muscle dysfunction

When you’re experiencing obesity, your muscles may not function as well as they should to allow you to make the most of your workouts.

To address this weight-related muscle dysfunction, researchers in a 2021 rodent study looked at the benefits of Rhodiola supplementation. They found the herb helped prevent and improve muscle atrophy and muscle dysfunction among obese mice eating a high fat diet.

Exercise support

One of Rhodiola’s traditional uses is as an athletic performance enhancer. As exercise is often a key part of a weight loss plan, this may be a way Rhodiola can help you lose weight.

In 2022, a systematic review looked at 10 of the existing studies on Rhodiola as an exercise supplement. It concluded that current research quality overall was low, but despite the limitations of the review, there was evidence to suggest Rhodiola has the potential to:

  • reduce muscle pain and injury and oxidative stress
  • improve skeletal muscle damage and recovery during training
  • improve explosive athletic power

Based on the findings, review authors state they expect Rhodiola to become an effective athletic supplement in the future.

Does Rhodiola increase metabolism?

Emerging evidence shows Rhodiola may have positive effects on your metabolism, the body’s process of converting what you eat and drink into energy.

In 2015, a study on human visceral fatty cells confirmed previous findings that rhodiola extracts can improve glucose and lipid metabolism.

The same benefits were noted in a 2022 study, which noted that Rhodiola’s positive effects on metabolism may one day be used to help treat and prevent fat accumulation in fatty liver disease.

While there’s evidence that Rhodiola can help boost aspects of your metabolism, more research is needed to know if these changes are significant enough to impact overall body weight.

Modern Rhodiola supplements are marketed for a variety of applications.

Many of these uses have supporting preliminary research. However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that not enough evidence yet exists to draw conclusions about the benefits of Rhodiola for any human health-related purpose.

Emerging research suggests the health benefits of Rhodiola may include:

More large-scale, human studies are necessary to prove these potential health benefits.

Rhodiola is available in capsules, tablets, tinctures, and tea. If you’re looking to take it as a regular supplement, pills and capsules may make it easier to keep an accurate, consistent dose.

What’s the recommended dosage for Rhodiola?

Rhodiola products in the United States are sold as dietary supplements. They’re regulated as foods, not drugs, under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

No standard daily value of Rhodiola has been established in humans.

Significant ingredient differences between Rhodiola products can impact how much you take of a particular brand, and different dosages may be needed for different health goals,

Effective doses used in research range from 170 milligrams (mg) per day to 1,500 mg per day, and commercial products vary in recommendations from 100 mg per day to 1,000 mg per day or more.

Research on stress management and physical performance enhancement indicates that Rhodiola has good safety margins and is well-tolerated, but more studies are needed to verify the safety profile.

The NCCIH states Rhodiola has been used safely in studies for up to 12- weeks. Common side-effects noted are:

  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • excessive saliva production
  • headache

Some people may experience an allergy to Rhodiola. It may also have a stimulating effect or result in insomnia, feelings of anxiety, agitation, elevated blood pressure, or chest pain.

Little is known about the use of Rhodiola in pregnancy or during breastfeeding.

Speaking with your doctor before taking any supplement can help limit your risks, especially while pregnant, taking other medications, or living with medical conditions.

As with all dietary supplements, the quality of Rhodiola products can affect safety. Purchasing products verified by third-party organizations can provide assurance of ingredient purity.

Look for labels that have United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) seals.

Rhodiola is a medicinal herb that’s been used for centuries in regions of Europe and Asia. While it’s been primarily studied for physical performance and recovery, not much research exists on the benefits of Rhodiola for weight loss.

No evidence yet shows that Rhodiola alone will significantly decrease your body weight.

Increased metabolism of fatty tissue, improvement of weight-related muscle dysfunction, and boosted athletic performance are several reasons why Rhodiola may support a weight loss program, however.

If you’re considering Rhodiola supplements, speaking with your doctor first about dosing and safety can help limit the chances of negative side effects.