Adaptogen Rhodiola Helps Stress Resilience, Cognitive Function, and Mood

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

September 14, 2020

Adaptogen Rhodiola Helps Stress Resilience, Cognitive Function, and Mood
Stress of all kinds is at an all-time high. Whether it is emotional, mental, or dietary stress, exhaustion, isolation, potential or perceived threats, or even EMF exposure, stress creates challenges and pushes your capacity to adapt. Stress intolerance or the inability to no longer adapt to stress affects your memory, mood, focus, energy, vitality, circadian rhythms, and so much more.

Adapting to stress determines if you manage to keep it all together, end up in a panic and crises, crash and burn, or slowly lose the capacity to manage demands. Rhodiola rosea is a long-time favorite stress-busting nutrient that helps your brain and body adapt to and support stress resilience.

Rhodiola rosea, also known as golden root or rose, is flower found in the mountainous regions in Europe, Central Asia, and the Arctic. It is a dynamic herbal adaptogen. It functions as a “stress-response modifier” as it helps your brain, immune, and endocrine systems adapt or adjust to stress. It is also considered a nootropic or smart nutrient. Rhodiola supports brain health, cognitive function, memory, creativity, motivation and aids in stress tolerance.

Rhodiola Aids Mood and Stress Neurotransmitters

Studies on Rhodiola show that it supports healthy dopamine and serotonin levels. Dopamine is involved with mood, motivation, movement, reward and pleasure. Serotonin affects mood and well-being, eating, sleeping, circadian rhythms, and digestion.

The way this works is that Rhodiola helps block monoamine oxidase, an enzyme located on the outer edge of mitochondria. This action limits the breakdown of “amines” or neurotransmitters such as dopamine, and serotonin, etc. when under stress. This helps your mitochondria and brain maintain higher levels of these compounds, which can help brain vitality and significantly support mood and quality of life

Rhodiola Supports Nerve Synapses

Rhodiola supports another aspect of nerve structure, i.e. nerve synapses. This is the space between two nerves where nerve impulses, neurotransmitters, and other compounds are transmitted. Nerve synapses must be in good working order for nerve electrical transmission. Synapse function impacts everything in the brain including cognitive function, mood, behavior, and vital life activity.

Cell waste products and damaged proteins, however, affect nerve synapse function like static in a phone connection impacts how well you hear the conversation. Recent animal studies suggest that Rhodiola may preserve nerve synapses in the brain, which may aid in protecting cognitive function and the aging brain.

Mental Function and Cognitive Agility

A recent study evaluated 50 healthy adults with in-depth neuropsychological testing which assessed several aspects related to attention, multitasking, and cognitive skills. Participants were tested prior to the administration of Rhodiola and then given 400 mg daily of Rhodiola rosea extract for 12 weeks. Neuropsych testing was repeated at 6 and 12 weeks.

Test results showed that Rhodiola rosea was well tolerated. Use of it led to faster mental reaction times with improved accuracy and mental processing speed. Various multitasking skills were completed faster and easier, demonstrating less brain stress and fatigue. Tests that measured mood and stress levels also showed improvement.

Think about the times when you are under stress. Your memory may not be as sharp. You might walk into the next room and can’t remember what you were supposed to get. You may find it harder to remember conversations or the name of an acquaintance. You may feel mentally sluggish and slow or that you are having a bad brain day. This adaptogenic, nootropic nutrient may help perk up your brain power.

Thinking and Memory – Prefrontal Cortex and Hippocampus

Rhodiola improves stress tolerance and protects against elevated cortisol stress levels. One study showed that the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal communication loop (HPA axis), circadian rhythm, nerve tissues, and especially the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain were protected against stress reactions.

Other stress studies evaluated Rhodiola’s impact on hippocampus function and memory, spatial and cognitive function in animals. It provided significant neuroprotective and antioxidant effects for the hippocampus

The hippocampus is memory center of your brain and is also involved with helping you learn new things, spatial navigation, and is considered part of the ‘moral brain’.

The prefrontal cortex is in the front part of the brain involved with decision making, problem solving, making complex plans, personality expression, and moderating social behavior.

Brain Stress – Hippocampus and EMF

With all the different “grizzly bears” and crises going on with life activities, one may not think of environmental stressors like EMF. Electromagnetic field (EMF) and wireless technology is a significant environmental stress to tissues and organs in your body.

One study exposed rats to EMF for various lengths similar to daily life exposures. Oxidative stress markers and antioxidant levels were measured. Evidence showed that cell apoptosis (death) within the hippocampus increased considerably with EMF exposure which “disturbed the ability of learning and memory significantly.” The group supported with Rhodiola other nutrients and healthy diet experienced less hippocampus oxidative stress.

We are facing increased amounts of EMF exposure like never before in the history of mankind. Infants and children are more susceptible to the effects of EMF, but adults are vulnerable too. Wi-Fi exposure is pervasive. Because research shows the brain and hippocampus is affected, you have to ask yourself – is chronic EMF exposure contributing to a functional change in your memory, spatial navigation, or behaviors in your life or your family in part because of hippocampus stress? Take a stance in protecting you and your family from the EMF.

When acute stress hits or chronic stressors overrun your life, it takes a toll on you. It becomes imperative to use numerous stress management tools before it gets the best of you. Rhodiola is one of my favorite go to stress-busting nutrients. It is a powerhouse for all-kinds of stress tolerance needs for your brain and body. Give it a try and see if that helps you bounce back from a hard day.

Here are some additional articles of interest:

Rhodiola Helps Stress, Adrenals, Stamina

Stress Induced Burnout: The Path Back to Happiness

Adaptogens, Stress, and the HPA Axis

High Cortisol from Chronic Stress Increases Alzheimer’s Risk 

Western Diet Causes Cycle of Brain Damage and Obesity 

5G Wireless Looming, Health Concerns Abound

Thyroid Health Affected by EMF and Wireless Technology

Cell Phones, MRIs, Wi-Fi Cause Microleakage of Dental Amalgam Fillings

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