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Rhodiola and fatigue

Rhodiola and fatigue

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Rhodiola has long been known as an adaptogen — a natural substance that increases the body’s ability to resist stress in a non-specific way. It is believed that the consumption of adaptogens during difficult life periods helps people cope with stressful situations more easily. However, is it true? This question was asked by scientists from Sweden [1]. The aim of the research was to evaluate the effectiveness of standardized root extract of Rhodiola rosea L. in the treatment of people suffering from stress-related fatigue.

The research took the form of a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled research with parallel groups. It means that the comparison with the placebo group was taken into account, and that neither the doctor nor the patient knew whether the patient was receiving the real drug or not. There were 60 men and women aged 20 to 55 years. They were randomly divided into two equal groups: one group received four extract pills a day and the other one four placebo pills a day.

On the first day of the research, the participants met with the test manager, underwent pretreatment subjective assessments and passed the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test (CPT II) [2]. They were given a package of medications, instructions and saliva tanks. People were injected and sent for treatment. They had to collect saliva samples at a specific time after waking up each day (starting on the second day) and take four pills daily: two pills in the morning and two pills at lunchtime for 28 days.   

The primary endpoint was a reduction in fatigue symptoms according to the Pines Burnout Scale [3]. The reduction of depressive symptoms was assessed by the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) [4]. The quality of life (QoL) was measured by the SF-36 questionnaire [5,6,7].

As a result of the research, it was determined that Rhodiola rosea extract:

  • increases attention, ability to concentrate and endurance in situations of reduced performance caused by fatigue and feeling weak;
  • reduces stress-induced disorders and disorders related to the function of the neuroendocrine and immune systems;
  • reduces the effect of cortisol (stress hormone) in patients with fatigue syndrome.

It means that there are clinical research confirming that Rhodiola is useful for stress and fatigue, as well as feelings of weakness and malaise. It increases the body’s ability to resist stress and allows it to better cope with difficult life situations.


  1. Olsson EMG et al. A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Standardised Extract SHR-5 of the Roots of Rhodiola rosea in the Treatment of Subjects with Stress-Related Fatigue. Planta Med 2009; 75: 105-112.
  2. Conners CK. Conners’ continuous performance test II: Computer program for Windows – Technical guide and software manual. Toronto: Multi-Health Systems; 2003
  3. Pines A, Aronson E, Kafry D. Burnout: from tedium to personal growth. New York: Free Press; 1981.
  4. Montgomery SA, Asberg M. A new depression scale designed to be sensitive to change. Br J Psychiatry 1979; 134: 382-9.
  5. Sullivan M, Karlsson J, Ware J. The Swedish SF-36 health survey-I. Evaluation of data quality, scaling assumptions, reliability and construct validity across general populations in Sweden. Soc Sci Med 1995; 41: 1349-58.
  6. Persson L-O, Karlsson J, Bengtsson C, Steen B, Sullivan M. The Swedish SF-36 health survey – II. Evaluation of clinical validity: Results from population studies of elderly and women in Gothenburg. J Clin Epidemiol 1998; 51: 1095-103.
  7. Sullivan M, Karlsson J. The Swedish SF-36 health survey-III. Evaluation of criterion-based validity: Results from normative population. J Clin Epidemiol 1998; 51: 1105-13.