Rhodiola rosea is a medicinal herb known as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are a category of medicines used in naturopathic clinical practice to assist with building resilience to stress and reducing fatigue.
Fatigue is a common health complaint seen in clinical practice both of a physical and/or mental nature. Mental fatigue may manifest in the form of decreased attention, lack of motivation, reduced ability to concentrate, or somnolence. Most athletes are well aware of physical fatigue- the kind that feels like dragging around a ton of bricks each day. Some tiredness is expected after hard training sessions and races, however if fatigue persists beyond these times, it may be worth looking into supportive options.
Adaptogens help an individual become less sensitive to a stressor by inducing a mild activation of the stress system via the hypothalamus pituitary axis (HPA) giving rise to adaptive and stress-protective effects. The beneficial effects can be experienced in multiple systems as the HPA axis also contributes to the nervous, cardiovascular, immune, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems.
Rhodiola has historically been used to treat a range of conditions, including fatigue, depression and anxiety, impotence, and nervous system disorders. More recently it has received attention for its potential to improve physical and mental performance and reduction of fatigue. Several clinical trials provide evidence for the beneficial of Rhodiola in athletes.
Viral infections are a common complaint experienced by athletes either during the tapering pre-event stage or in the recovery phase. A 2015 study involving marathoners indicated Rhodiola demonstrates protective effects against virus replication following intense and prolonged exercise by inducing antiviral activity.