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Rhodiola Rosea vs Ashwagandha: Which One Is Best For You?

ashwagandha vs rhodiola

It’s no secret that stress is inevitable for most people reading this article.

And as you also probably already know, chronic stress can severely disrupt our sleep patterns, accelerate the ageing process, increase body fat, and last but not least, it can also take a toll on our mental health.

Although over-the-counter medicines may help alleviate stress levels in the short term, they also often have some unwelcome side effects as time goes on.

Plant-based herbs, however, can potentially help enhance the body’s resistance to stress without many of the adverse health effects that many pharmaceutical drugs come with. Specifically, adaptogens like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are often used in Indian Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine to help combat stress.

But which one should you pick?

Although both share some similarities, they also differ in a few of their unique properties. In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages of both herbs to help you choose the right one for your needs.

What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha?

ashwagandha root

Humans in North Africa, the Middle East, and India have long used Ashwagandha to improve their health and overall well-being. The medicinal plant is a plump, round shrub with yellow flowers and oval leaves.

Each part of the herb serves different purposes to heal the body. The flowers, for instance, are traditionally used to detoxify and purify the stomach, while the roots can help alleviate issues such as inflammation.

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Some of the biggest reported benefits of this powerful adaptogen include:

May Help To Lower Cortisol Levels

Cortisol, also called the stress hormone, is responsible for regulating several processes in the body, from immune response to metabolism. Chronic stress levels often lead to higher levels of cortisol in the body.

However, new studies are suggesting that taking Ashwagandha can help lower cortisol by reducing the circulatory levels of the stress hormone in your blood.

If you feel like you’re often stressed, consider consuming Ashwagandha alongside other stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, and sleep to see if it can help you cope better. There are also studies indicating that this adaptogenic herb may also help improve stress-associated symptoms, including hypertension, premature ageing, and anxiety.

May Enhance Memory

Apart from reducing cortisol and stress levels, one study in 2017 found that Ashwagandha may even help protect the brain and nerve cells against disease and damage due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

People who regularly take Ashwagandha often report that they have sharper focus and memory compared to when they aren't taking it.

This concept of incorporating ‘brain-boosting foods’ into the diet isn’t new. Health-conscious people have long taken herbal medicines and eaten foods like dark chocolate, fish, and nuts to help boost cognitive function.

Potentially Balances Hormones

Ashwagandha's benefits extend beyond reducing stress and improving brain function.

Research indicates that it can also support healthy testosterone levels in men. In fact, it remains largely considered one of the best natural and safest ways to increase testosterone and enhance fertility by boosting sperm count.

Not only this, but a number of studies also indicate that its advantages may also stretch to female reproductive health.

Helps To Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

Ashwagandha may also be beneficial for patients with high blood sugar levels.

According to a recent study published in PubMed, pairing ashwagandha with a balanced diet and exercise may help to regulate blood sugar levels (this study showed some very promising results, however, was small and limited in its size).

Besides taking Ashwagandha, a number of studies also indicate that people with high blood sugar levels can also benefit from eating foods rich in chromium and magnesium.

This is because the deficiency of these two nutrients appears to have a direct impact on high blood sugar levels.

Some chromium-rich foods include:

  • High-bran cereals
  • Egg yolks
  • Green beans
  • Cereals
  • Broccoli

Also, consider taking the following magnesium-rich foods to maximise Ashwagandha benefits for lowering blood sugar levels:

  • Whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Fish
  • Avocados
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fish

Combining black pepper with ashwagandha is also another way to increase its effectiveness and bioavailability.

What Are the Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea?

rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola Rosea goes by a few names, including King’s crown, arctic root, and golden root.

It grows and thrives in Asian and European regions and humans from Russia, China, and Korea have been using Rhodiola for its therapeutic benefits for thousands of years.

Unlike the former evergreen Ashwagandha herb which is typically found in drier areas, Rhodiola often grows in cold and mountainous regions.

Luckily, these days if you want to experience its benefits, you won't have to go adventuring into the alps - you can easily get it in the form of liquid extract, powder, and even capsules.

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Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of Rhodiola Rosea and as we go, you'll likely notice that both of these herbs share some very similar properties:

May Help Improve Mental Energy And Performance

Rhodiola is reported by many to almost have a nootropic effect - booting focus, concentration and clarity. There are many animal studies indicating its ability to improve learning and memory function, however, many more human studies are needed to better understand this.

Potentially Aids In Treating Depression

As adaptogens can help create a balance in the brain and neurotransmitters, they often serve as useful supplements for mental well-being.

Plus, as opposed to synthetic OTC antidepressants that often lead to a variety of side effects, rhodiola may help to reduce depression without any major associated negative health effects.

Can Boost Physical Performance

Rhodiola also looks to be a very useful supplement for athletes as well. Early studies indicate — that if taken in proper dosages — it can help boost physical energy levels as well improve recovery.

Potentially Helps To Alleviate Stress

Rhodiola Rosea may not suppress stress entirely (as nothing really can), but it may help you cope with the symptoms.

This study in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information backs the claim that Rhodiola may help reduce mental and emotional fatigue induced in stressful environments.

So, if studies, work, or responsibilities are tiring you out mentally and physically, Rhodiola is a low-risk herb that may help you combat that feeling of overwhelm.

How Do Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Differ?

Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are similar in that they both:

  • Are adaptogenic herbs
  • Contain a high number of antioxidants
  • May provide psychological and physiological benefits

However, the precise uses of both herbs differ for most people. For example, Ashwagandha is primarily used for supporting cognitive health, improving mental well-being, alleviating stress, and balancing hormones. It definitely does have performance and physical benefits, however, it is often noted as being 'more relaxing' than Rhodiola Rosea.

On the other hand, herbalists often recommend Rhodiola to mainly boost energy levels and stamina. and mental clarity. It is said by most to be more energising and stimulating than Ashwagandha.

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Can Rhodiola Be Combined With Ashwagandha?

Yes, both ashwagandha and rhodiola can be safely combined to maximise mental and physical benefits. The two work synergistically to improve your focus, help you stay calm, and stabilise your energy the entire day. (also see ashwagandha vs maca, ginseng & L-theanine for some other great combinations).

However, even though you can take Rhodiola and Ashwagandha together, we recommend splitting the dose.

For example, try to take Rhodiola before leaving for work in the morning. This will energise your body and brain and help you tackle the challenging workday that lies ahead.

In this combination - Ashwagandha will serve you better before going to bed, helping you to deeply relax and catch a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few benefits you may expect after regularly taking both supplements concurrently:

  • Sharp focus
  • Better physical and mental energy without stimulants
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Lower anxiety and stress levels

What Herbs Should Not Be Taken With Ashwagandha?

st. john's wort

Health practitioners often advise not to take multiple medications together. This is because some medicines interact with each other, cancel each other out, or produce certain side effects.

The case isn’t much different with herbs like Ashwagandha.

Even though you can safely take both Rhodiola and Ashwagandha together, make sure you don’t take Ashwagandha with some other herbs like valerian, kava, St. John’s wort, or any other drugs like diazepam that induce sleep.

This is because combining Ashwagandha with them can result in powerful sedative properties and can cause excessive sleepiness and drowsiness.

Besides these, the herb can also interact with:

  • Thyroid supplements
  • Blood thinners
  • Sedatives
  • Anxiety drugs
  • Diabetes medicine
  • High blood pressure medications

The side effects of ashwagandha are quite well known (and generally well tolerated in most people), however, just to be on the safe side, always talk to your doctor before incorporating ashwagandha, rhodiola or any other supplements into your diet.

What Should You Not Take With Rhodiola?

Research has shown that Rhodiola may lower blood pressure - therefore, taking the herb with medicines that reduce blood pressure (hypotensives) is never a good idea. Doing so may decrease blood pressure to dangerously low levels, risking your health.

Further, avoid taking Rhodiola if you use medications that:

  • Lower the immune activity (Immunosuppressants)
  • Reduce blood sugar levels (diabetes medications)
  • Move in and out of cells via pumps (P-Glycoprotein substrates)

What Are the Side Effects of Taking Rhodiola?

Rhodiola doesn’t appear to have any significant side effects and is well tolerated by most people. Most of the rarely experienced symptoms are mild, rare, and easily manageable.

A few of the possible side effects of Rhodiola include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness

As always, make sure you speak to your doctor before taking Rhodiola. They’ll suggest an appropriate dosage given your existing health record and may also be able to recommend alternative medications — if you’re currently taking any — to avoid unnecessary interactions.

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Is Rhodiola the Same As Ashwagandha?

Although Rhodiola and Ashwagandha share a few similarities and are both potent medicinal herbs, they are not the same thing. They are entirely different supplements made from entirely different plants.

What Is Better - Rhodiola or Ashwagandha?

Both Rhodiola and Ashwagandha offer a host of potential health benefits, however, determining which is better depends on your specific needs and wants.

For instance, if you’re looking for a supplement that offers a more calming and sedative effect, you’d probably like Ashwagandha better. Rhodiola, however, might be a better fit for people who want to keep their energy and endurance up during the day.

When to Take Rhodiola and Ashwagandha?

Given Rhodiola's energising properties, it’s best taken right out of bed. Not only will it help you stay focused during the day, but it’ll also allow you to tackle early morning strenuous athletic activities — think gym, jogging, or running.

Ashwagandha, on the other hand, can be taken both morning and night for different reasons - however, if you're choosing to take both rhodiola and ashwagandha in your day, ashwagandha is best taken right before bed. This is because the calming, soothing, and stress-relieving properties of the herb may allow you to get a better night’s sleep.

How Do I Know Which Ashwagandha Supplement to Buy?

When looking to purchase an ashwagandha supplement, it's important to understand the varying levels of quality and effectiveness between brands. Before making your decision, research the specific type of ashwagandha in the product: is it an extract? Does it have a high concentration of key compounds such as withanolides? Is it backed by any scientific evidence or third-party clinical trials? When in doubt, check out our review of the best ashwagandha supplements on the market today to help you get started.

That’s A Wrap!

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the key differences between ashwagandha and rhodiola - and what that might mean in terms of supplementation.

Both are brilliant adaptogenic herbs that offer some amazing potential benefits and complement each other beautifully.

Speak to your health practitioner to get the all-clear, and then try them for yourself and note how your body adapts, reacts and adjusts to each one!

Finally - if you want to dive a bit deeper into comparing the two, this excellent video below gives some great extra info:

Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Holding a Bachelor Of Science (Hons.) combined with close to a decade now in the health food and wellness industry, I believe I'm uniquely positioned to provide a depth of knowledge and first-hand experience on emerging health products, trends and ideas! From greens powders and medicinal mushrooms through to protein powders and workout nutrition - I'm particularly interested in what modern science can uncover about what human cultures have been using to treat ailments for millennia!

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