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The herb Rhodiola roseahas been used traditionally in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and other European countries as a “tonic herb,” said to fight fatigue, aid convalescence from illness, prevent infections, and enhance sexual function. In the twentieth century, Soviet physicians classified rhodiola as an adaptogen . This invented term refers to a hypothetical treatment described as follows: An adaptogen helps the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological stress. Furthermore, an adaptogen supposedly causes no side effects, treats a wide variety of illnesses, and helps return an organism toward balance no matter what may have gone wrong.
Perhaps the only indisputable example of an adaptogen is a healthful lifestyle. By eating right, exercising regularly, and generally living a life of balance and moderation, you will increase your physical fitness and ability to resist illnesses of all types. Multivitamin/multimineral supplements could offer similarly general benefits, at least in people whose diet is deficient in basic nutrients. Whether there are any herbs that offer adaptogenic benefits, however, remains unproven (and somewhat unlikely). Nonetheless, advocates of the adaptogen concept believe that rhodiola (as well as ginseng , ashwagandha , reishi , suma , and several other herbs) have this property.
Rhodiola extracts are standardized to their content of salidroside (also called rhodioloside). A typical dosage of 170 to 185 mg daily supplies 4.5 mg of salidroside. When rhodiola is used as a one-time treatment, two to three times this dose is often used. Note: Most published studies involved a single proprietary product. It is not clear that the results of these studies apply to products using different rhodiola sources, or different methods of extraction.