Stress is an inevitable fact of life. Everyday we encounter stress, inside and out, knowingly or unknowingly. From simple day-to-day activities to major decisions to be made, all this can affect our life. If left unchecked, it can have damaging consequences on our mental and physical health. Effective ways to manage stress are therefore important in order to survive in a fast-paced world. There are a lot of options, of course, to handle this, like drugs, mental exercise, etc. Mental conditioning may seem right and handy, but some have difficulty following this. And drugs, as we all know, may bring unwanted side effects,and may even make things complicated. Research suggests that Rhodiola may offer a practical, natural solution for overcoming many stress-related complaints.
What is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), sometimes called Arctic root or golden root, is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it acts in non-specific ways to increase resistance to stress, without disturbing normal biological functions. The herb Rhodiola rosea grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia, and its root has been used in traditional medicine in Russia and the Scandinavian countries for centuries. Studies of Rhodiola rosea’s medicinal applications have appeared in the scientific literature of Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and Iceland. Rhodiola rosea is still widely used up to now in Russia as a tonic and remedy for fatigue, poor attention span, and decreased memory; it is also believed to make workers more productive. In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries it is used to increase the capacity for mental work and to boost general strength and vitality.
Russians spent decades secretly searching for energy-enhancing plants that would help their Olympians, as well as their soldiers and astronauts, perform better. The Soviets were looking for what they called “adaptogens”—plant species that would encourage the body to adapt to physical and mental stress without major side effects. As for their athletes, the Russians tested Rhodiola on nearly every type of Olympian, claiming it increased endurance and reduced recovery time.
News about this versatile herb spread quickly around the world, even up to this time, prompting scientists to take a closer look at the herb’s many applications. Their new findings confirm the multiple physiological and psychological benefits of rhodiola, demonstrating that the herb indeed offers a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern-day life.
Rhodiola’s effects are particularly remarkable in the nervous system. In one of the published articles, it stated that “Rhodiola rosea relieves stress by balancing the body’s stress-response system. This consists of the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares the body to expend energy during crises, often described as the “fight or flight response”) and the counterbalancing parasympathetic nervous system (which recharges and heals the body, returning it to a relaxed state). With constant stress, the system becomes unbalanced, making us feel edgy, tired, or depressed. Rhodiola rosea helps us re-establish balance by acting as an adaptogen—an agent that strengthens the body’s response to physical, mental, and emotional stressors.”
As well as enhancing memory, rhodiola also helps strengthen the body, making it more resilient to challenges such as exercise and fatiguing tasks.
As stated in a study, “Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the main energy currency of the body, the researchers concluded that rhodiola enhances exercise capacity by activating the synthesis or re-synthesis of this vital energy source and stimulating energy-repair processes after intense exercise.”
Further, “rhodiola also helps protect muscle tissue during exercise. This effect was seen in a study of healthy untrained volunteers after exhausting exercise, in whom rhodiola extract reduced levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, and creatinine kinase, a marker of muscle damage.”
New Research Highlights Diverse Benefits
In just the past few years, new evidence has revealed even more diverse benefits of rhodiola. These include “protecting the nervous system against oxidative stress, enhancing healthy sleep, lifting depressed mood, relieving anxiety, and maintaining blood sugar within a healthy range.”
Recent research confirms that rhodiola has potent antioxidant effects that protect nervous system cells. By protecting cells of the nervous system against oxidative stress-induced cell death, salidroside could be used “for treating or preventing neurodegenerative disease implicated with oxidative stress,” the scientists noted.
In addition, “rhodiola may help support good mental health by lifting mood, relieving anxiety, and supporting a healthy response to stress.”
These recent results reaffirm earlier studies and anecdotal evidence demonstrating rhodiola as a comprehensive adaptogen that helps the body withstand the accumulating effects of stress and advancing age.
While it is a fact that stress is a part of life, we can equip ourselves with proper nutrition to respond to daily stressors—both mental and physical—and proper nutrition may include rhodiola rosea.
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