The Quirky Dosing of Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)

Corey Schuler, RN, MS, CNS, DC

Rhodiola rosea (Rosenroot) originates from northern climates and areas of high altitude, mainly Europe and Asia, and contains over 100 compounds from the rhizome and root, including polyphenols rosavins and salidroside with standardization occurring at 3% and 1% respectively.1,2,4 Various Rhodiola species are used throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States for many reasons, with an especially long history supporting mood.1

Rhodiola rosea Studies

A 4-week study with Rhodiola rosea suggested 200 mg twice daily (400 mg/day) was a safe dose.8 Some clinicians report that at clinically-studied dosages, certain individuals experience a paradoxical effect (i.e. opposite than the expected effect). What is often the case in these scenarios is that a healthcare professional may reduce the dose or discontinue the use of Rhodiola. However, an alternative theory exists. This theory suggests that those individuals experiencing paradoxical effects of Rhodiola at clinically-studied doses may benefit from slightly higher doses (within the accepted safe range) rather than lower doses. How could this be?

Practice is an art and, as with any art, there are variances to each artist’s preferences based on what they observe in their media. Oftentimes, science influences preferences in the artist, but never does it fully replace the art.

Rhodiola is partially metabolized via CYP3A4 and monoamine oxidase (MAO),5,6 and this thoroughfare of metabolism has a myriad of roles. Its window of activity can influence how much of the active constituents of a botanical remain in the system or are further excreted.6 This alone may explain why one person has one experience with Rhodiola and another has a very different experience. Affecting the MAO system can regulate and affect metabolism of neurotransmitters and this too may contribute to variances in experiences.6

Rhodiola Mechanisms of Action

Several mechanisms of action are responsible for the effects of Rhodiola including interactions with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, effects on nitric oxide production, and defense mechanism proteins*.3 Salidroside affects normally occurring intracellular products.* Rhodiola may also influence beta-endorphins according to preclinical studies*.4

Rhodiola Dosing

Most practitioners are familiar with dose dependency. Increasing the dose of any given supplement increases its effect. However, one herbal theory is that Rhodiola can be “stimulating” at low doses and have a “toning” effect at higher doses. These terms are loosely defined in herbalism. From a basic science opinion, this may mean affecting availability of neurologically important amines.7 Rhodiola may also affect catecholaminergic transmission, through GABA-ergic, serotoninergic, and noradrenergic receptors.* Finally, the herb, or active constituents may also have an effect on corticotrophin-releasing factor.*7 Given the complexity of the herb and its potential pleiotropic effects in the central nervous system, as well as the manner in which it is metabolized, it is no wonder that a diverse species such as homo sapiens may have a broad spectrum of experiences. Given this information, most practitioners begin with a known, studied dose in humans and titrate up or down to reach the desired effect. Seems like a lot can be learned from the practical use of this little herb.


  1. Peschel W, Kump A, Horvath A, Csupor D. Age and harvest season affect the phenylpropenoid content in cultivated European Rhodiola rosea L.doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2015.10.037
  2. Tianyi X, Xiaojin L, Hui Y, et al. Survey of commercial Rhodiola products revealed species diversity and potential safety issues. Sci Rep. 2015;5:8337. doi: 10.1038/srep083373
  3. Panossian A, Wikman G, Sarris J. Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): Traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomed. 2010 Jun;17(7):481-93. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.02.002
  4. Chiang H, Chen H, Wu C, Wu P, Wen K. Rhodiola plants: Chemistry and biological activity. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis.&2015
  5. Van Diermen D, Marston A, Bravo J, reist M, Carrupt PA, Hostettmann K.Monamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Mar 18;122(2):397-401. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.01.007
  6. Hellum BH, Tosse A, Hoybakk K, Thomsen M, Rohloff J, Gerog Nilsen O. Potent in vitro inhibition of CYP3A4 and P-glycoprotein by Rhodiola rosea. Plant Med. 2010 mar;76(4):331-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1186153.
  7. Perfumi M, Mattioli L. Adaptogenic and central nervous system effects of single doses of 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside Rhodiola rosea L. extract in mice. Phytother. Res. 2007 Jan;21(1):37-43. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2013
  8. Edwards D, Heufelder A, Zimmermann A. Therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola rosea extract WS 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms – results of an open-label study. Phytother Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):1220-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3712.

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