Is Rhodiola a Stimulant? | Botanic Tonics

Is Rhodiola a Stimulant? | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Jamal Bouie

That 3:00pm afternoon slump, that last-minute deadline upset, the post-weekend recovery—sometimes, you just need a boost of energy and mental focus. Luckily, you don’t have to turn to hard-hitting energy drinks or coffee jitters to find it.

If you’ve ever foraged into the world of supplements, you’ve probably heard of rhodiola. For centuries, this adaptogenic plant has been used in traditional medicine for its host of physical and mental benefits. Now, it’s a beloved supplement for many naturalists.

So, is rhodiola a stimulant? Can it provide that energy boost you need?

In this article, we will explore the impact of rhodiola as a natural stimulant, including its effects on energy levels, focus, and overall health.

What is Rhodiola?

Rhodiola, scientifically known as Rhodiola rosea, is a floral herb that can be found across the arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America.[1] The name comes from the Greek word “rhodon,” meaning rose—a compliment to the beauty of its yellow buds among the snowy lands.[2]

The medical history of rhodiola dates back centuries, stemming from Ayurvedic traditions. In particular, rhodiola has been used for its adaptogen properties. Adaptogens are a family of medicinal herbs known for their beneficial physical and mental effects, especially on brain performance, energy, and focus.[3] All adaptogens share these three qualities:

  • Act as non-toxic when taken in normal doses
  • Relieve stress in the body
  • Return the body to homeostasis or a balanced state

So, what gives rhodiola its adaptogenic powers? At the heart of rhodiola's magic lies a captivating array of antioxidant compounds. With the power to capture oxidizing free radicals that prematurely age cells, these compounds in rhodiola make it a wellness powerhouse:[4]

  • Rosavin – Unique to rhodiola, this polyphenol (a type of antioxidant compound) provides the plant’s soothing and stress-reducing properties. 
  • Salidroside – Like rosavin, salidroside is unique to rhodiola. This compound is a phenylpropanoid glycoside with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. 
  • Tyrosol – Found also in olives and red wine, tyrosol has cardioprotective properties that support blood flow and healthy blood vessels.

Does Rhodiola Affect Energy Like a Stimulant?

Before you grab another cup of ol’ Joe, consider a more natural energy booster. Rhodiola may not be a stimulant like caffeine or prescription drugs, but it has a certified positive effect on energy in some people.

Rhodiola's adaptogenic nature acts as a modulator in your body, helping enhance its resilience in the face of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. One of these stressors? Fatigue. When your body starts to feel tired, rhodiola kicks in to produce and use adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—a.k.a., the energy currency of your cells.[5] As a result, you may feel an increase in energy. 

Certain studies have demonstrated the fatigue-fighting effects of Rhodiola, finding these results:

  • In a study of 100 people with chronic fatigue, a 400mg daily dose of rhodiola daily significantly improved stress symptoms, fatigue, mood, and quality of life—even after just one week.[6]
  • In a study of 56 healthy patients, a 170mg daily dose of rhodiola significantly reduced stress-reduced fatigue over three weeks with minimal side effects.[7]
  • In a study of 30 subjects across one week, rhodiola decreased fatigue in patients significantly more than a placebo or an adaptogen blend.[8]

So, is Rhodiola rosea a stimulant? In short, yes. However, rhodiola is considered milder and less addictive than prescription stimulants. While rhodiola can come with side effects, like headache or insomnia, it is typically a safer stimulant option.[9]

Can Rhodiola Improve Focus and Concentration?

From study sessions to project deadlines, a little extra focus can go a long way. Fortunately, rhodiola may be the natural concentration enhancer you need to tackle long bouts of work.

By increasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, rhodiola can possibly boost your mental clarity and focus.[10] While more research is needed, current studies back the concentration-enhancing properties of rhodiola:

  • Across 28 animal studies, rhodiola supplementation reduced “escape latency”—or how long it takes for an animal to escape a designed maze.[11]
  • In a study of 161 young male cadets, rhodiola boosted mental performance in the face of stress and fatigue compared to a placebo.[12]

What Are the Other Benefits of Rhodiola?

The good times don’t stop at boosted energy. Like most adaptogens, rhodiola provides many health benefits—alongside few downsides or risks.

As an adaptogen, rhodiola fights to keep your body in a balanced state, whether that’s emotionally, physically, or mentally. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of rhodiola are warriors against aging and inflammation. The result? Noticeable boosts in mood, physical health, and longevity. 

When ingested regularly, you may notice these additional rhodiola benefits in these areas:

  • Mood – While not a prescription antidepressant, rhodiola shows promise in reducing symptoms of depression. For instance, one study compared the mood effects of Rhodiola to the antidepressant sertraline. Although sertraline had a greater positive effect on mood, rhodiola also relieved depression symptoms but with fewer side effects.[13]
  • Stress – If adaptogens are known for one thing, it’s their stress-busting powers. By regulating stress response pathways, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, rhodiola can lower stress levels and promote emotional well-being.[14] In a study of patients with stress-related burnout, a daily dose of 400mg rhodiola daily improved stress levels over 12 weeks.[15]
  • Exercise performance – Consider rhodiola part of your workout routine. This adaptogen is shown to reduce physical fatigue, shorten reaction time, and improve muscular power. One study of rats found that rhodiola improved muscular power and strength performance,[16] while a human study found it decreased perceived exertion during exercise[17] 
  • Diabetes Type II – For those sensitive to sugar, rhodiola could be a great addition to your lifestyle. Researchers at the University of California found that Rhodiola rosea lowered fasting blood sugar levels, improved the response to insulin injections, and reduced gut inflammation in mice models of Type II diabetes.[18]
  • Cancer – While not conclusive, research is beginning to shed light on the potential anti-cancer properties of rhodiola. Certain studies show that rhodiola has a tendency to stop proliferation (rapid growth) and boost apoptosis (death) in cancer-prone cells.[19] In particular, rhodiola supplementation could protect against cancers common in aging patients, such as cancer of the bladder, colon, lung, and prostate.

What is the Recommended Dosage of Rhodiola for Energy?

Like any medication or supplement, rhodiola comes with recommended dosages. To stay safe, it’s important to evaluate how much rhodiola would actually suit your own health needs.

In general, a dosage of standardized rhodiola extract ranges from 100 to 300 milligrams per day.[20] However, this is just a guideline. The right dose of rhodiola for you depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Your physical size (height, weight, etc.)
  • Your medical history
  • Your current medications
  • Your individual sensitivity
  • Product potency
  • Product formulation (powder, tincture, etc.)

A good rule of thumb? Start on the lower end of dosages. That way, you can avoid experiencing any adverse effects from a too-high dose. It’s also best to consult a healthcare professional to determine the proper dosage for your personal health.

Tips to Take Rhodiola

Herbal supplements like rhodiola may seem “milder” compared to prescription medications. However, supplements come with very real physical and mental effects. By taking rhodiola extract mindfully, you can avoid experiencing any potential negative effects.

To maximize your rhodiola benefits, consider these tips for taking this adaptogen: 

  • Consult a healthcare professional – Before starting any new supplement, especially if you have any health conditions, it's important to discuss the choice with a healthcare professional. A professional can determine the safest way to incorporate rhodiola into your routine, taking your personal medical history into account.
  • Check your current medications – Rhodiola has noted interactions with benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).[21] If you take any of these medications, or any other daily medications, consult a healthcare professional before taking rhodiola.
  • Choose a reputable brand – The Food and Drug Administration regulates supplements as food, not drugs.[22] As a consequence, rhodiola supplements can vary in potency and quality. When purchasing rhodiola, opt for products from reputable brands that adhere to quality standards like third-party testing or quality certifications.
  • Take with food – Eating food before taking rhodiola can improve its absorption while reducing any gastrointestinal side effects. Consider taking it alongside a meal or snack to optimize its benefits and enhance digestion.
  • Be consistent – Like many supplements, rhodiola may take time to produce benefits in your body—so consistency is key. Incorporate rhodiola into your daily routine and take it consistently as recommended, so you can judge the effects of it on your wellness.

Supplement Your Health with Botanic Tonics

For a natural dose of energy, rhodiola could be your new go-to choice. While technically a stimulant, its mild effects and trove of health benefits make it a worthwhile solution for finding focus, boosting energy levels, and fighting fatigue. However, if rhodiola isn’t a great fit for your routine, we can provide another natural option—our high-quality kava.

At Botanic Tonics, we bring the best of natural, plant-based energy into our kava formulas. From our feel free kava tonic to kava capsules, our products are created to give a certifiable high-quality addition to your wellness routine. Explore our tasty products today for a soothing yet focusing boost.


  1. NCCIH. rhodiola
  2. Eggli, Urs; Newton, Leonard E. Etymological Dictionary of Succulent Plant Names.
  3.  Cleveland Clinic. What are Adaptogens & Types.
  4. ScienceDirect. Review Article rhodiola plants: Chemistry and biological activity.
  5. NIH. Effect of extracts from rhodiola rosea and rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles.
  6. NIH. rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial.
  7. NIH. rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue--a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty.
  8. NIH. The influence of adaptogens on ultraweak biophoton emission: a pilot-experiment.
  9. VerywellMind. rhodiola: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, and Interactions.
  10. VerywellMind. rhodiola: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, and Interactions.
  11. NIH. rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms.
  12. NIH. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work.
  13. ScienceDirect. rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial.
  14.  NIH. Schisandra chinensis and rhodiola rosea exert an anti-stress effect on the HPA axis and reduce hypothalamic c-Fos expression in rats subjected to repeated stress.
  15. NIH. Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms.
  16. NIH. Acute and chronic effects of Rhaponticum carthamoides and rhodiola rosea extracts supplementation coupled to resistance exercise on muscle protein synthesis and mechanical power in rats.
  17. NIH. The Effect of Acute rhodiola rosea Ingestion on Exercise Heart Rate, Substrate Utilisation, Mood State, and Perceptions of Exertion, Arousal, and Pleasure/Displeasure in Active Men.
  18. UCI News. UCI-led study shows rhodiola rosea root might be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes.
  19. SpringerLink. rhodiola rosea L.: an Herb with Anti-Stress, Anti-Aging, and Immunostimulating Properties for Cancer Chemoprevention.
  20. VerywellMind. rhodiola: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, and Interactions.
  21. VerywellMind. rhodiola: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, and Interactions.
  22. FDA. Dietary Supplements.

About The Author

Jamal Bouie Botanic Tonic

Jamal Bouie

Jamal Bouie is an accomplished professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Biomedicine at Salus University. Jamal has worked in several industries; he began his career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and transitioned to the cannabis industry, where he specialized in analytical testing and manufacturing, playing a vital role in ensuring product safety and compliance. Now, Jamal has turned his attention to the dietary supplement field, combining his scientific acumen with his passion for health and wellness.

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