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A recent review highlights that rhodiola could offer protection against respiratory viruses. In particular, it discusses a 2015 study whereby rhodiola exerted antiviral activity in athletes following a competitive marathon race. Intense exercise, such as marathon running, is known to suppress the immune system, which increases the incidence and severity of acute respiratory infections. However, supplementing with rhodiola may offset these effects. In the study, marathon runners were supplemented with 600 mg/day of rhodiola for 30 days prior to and on the day of a marathon. Researchers then took samples of their blood 15 minutes after the race and, in a lab, applied it to cells that were infected with a virus. When applied, the bioactive metabolites of rhodiola within the athlete’s blood effectively suppressed viral replication. This led researchers to conclude that supplementation with rhodiola could protect athletes from acquiring viral infections following strenuous exercise. Rhodiola’s antiviral properties are largely attributed to its rich content of bioactive metabolites like rosavin and salidroside.
The review goes on to explain that beyond rhodiola, all adaptogenic herbs (eleuthero, andrographis, schisandra, ashwagandha, etc.) may aid in the prevention of viral respiratory infections. This is because adaptogens help our body better resist various stressors, including bacterial and viral pathogens. More specifically, they counter infections and the damage they cause by inhibiting the binding of viruses to our cells, modulating the immune response (so that it is not over or under reactive), reducing inflammation, and preventing oxidative stress-induced injuries to our cells. Adaptogens are also known to blunt cortisol, our primary stress hormone, which is important because chronically high cortisol levels contribute to immunosenescence, or the aging of our immune system, and decline in its function.
Rhodiola, an adaptogen popular for its anti-fatigue properties, was shown to increase mental performance and reaction time in a recent study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science. The study had healthy male students supplement with 600 milligrams of rhodiola per day for four weeks. At the end of the four-week period the rhodiola-supplemented group experienced signifi cant improvements in mental performance, including greater speed and accuracy on psychomotor tests compared to the placebo group. Psychomotor skills emphasize reaction time, coordination, and dexterity (think “hand-eye coordination”) and are required for tasks such as driving.
Phytochemicals found in rhodiola, like salidrosides and rosavins, act on various pathways in brain cells to enhance learning, memory, and cognitive function, and appear to improve not only age-related decreases in mental performance, but also enhance mental performance in healthy individuals.