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Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola: Which Is Better For Relieving Stress?

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Feeling stressed? Ashwagandha and rhodiola are known as adaptogens and might have properties that relieve stress, so let's take a look at ashwagandha vs rhodiola

Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola

Ashwagandha and rhodiola are both adaptogenic herbs, which means they can help your body’s response to stress.

Adaptogens can also reduce fatigue, improve your attention span and increase endurance, among many other effects. You may have heard of some other adaptogens such as astragalus root, which can reduce stress and help prevent aging, and holy basil, which helps with relaxation.

You may also hear these herbs referred to as nootropics, which is a term for any supplement or medicine that improves aspects of a generally healthy person’s executive or cognitive function.

Before we look at which one is right for you, let’s find out more about ashwagandha and rhodiola and their therapeutic benefits!

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, or, to give it its Latin name, withania somnifera, has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine. The plant is found in Asia and North Africa, and it has become one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.

The root and berry of the plant are both used medicinally, and there are a range of health benefits.

Ashwagandha is said to help support general wellness, particularly relaxation. Its Latin name even means “sleep-inducing” (somnifera)! Some early clinical research suggests that it may help people struggling with anxiety and insomnia.

Ashwagandha can lower your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which has a huge range of positive effects. Lower cortisol levels can lead to feeling less tired, improved memory and concentration, better immune function and even less weight gain – your whole body will thank you!

Studies have shown that ashwagandha helps to reduce blood sugar levels, both in those with and without diabetes.

We wrote a guide on when to take Ashwagandha here.

Ashwagandha has a high concentration of withonalides, a group of naturally occurring steroids that help to reduce inflammation. In animal trials, they have helped to reduce the spread of tumor growth, and human trials have shown that ashwagandha helps to support the immune system.

It’s also been said to reduce symptoms of depression, lower cholesterol, boost fertility and libido and decrease the risk of heart disease.

What Is Rhodiola?

Rhodiola, otherwise known as rhodiola rosea or golden root, is found in the Arctic and Northern Europe, and its root has been used as an adaptogen for centuries.

Rhodiola has been used to reduce anxiety, depression and insomnia, and it can act quickly. It can reduce fatigue in just three days, according to one study in 2012!

Rhodiola can be particularly effective in helping with stress related fatigue, particularly when taken in supplements with schisandra extracts.

Research has shown that rhodiola can stimulate dopamine and serotonin activity – you may have heard of both of these as hormones that improve or stabilize your mood. Having the right amount of serotonin in your body can also help maintain bone health, improve digestion, heal wounds and support your sleep.

There is also some evidence that rhodiola can improve athletic performance, and potentially reduce muscle damage after exercise. Studies show that it can improve endurance when the supplement is taken before exercise, possibly due to supporting lung health.

When trialed by elite athletes, endurance was not affected, but their muscles were in better shape after they’d exercised.

In animal trials, rhodiola was found to help control diabetes and support healthy blood sugar levels.

Rhodiola is also said to regulate your heartbeat, help protect cells from damage, support the nervous system, and may help men’s sexual performance.

Nootropic Side Effects

As with all supplements, there are potential side effects, and there are some people who should avoid taking either.

Side effects of ashwagandha taken in large doses may include diarrhea and vomiting. Rhodiola’s side effects may include a dry mouth or excessive production of saliva, an upset stomach, and dizziness.

Both ashwagandha and rhodiola are generally believed to be safe if taken in the short term. If you develop any unpleasant side effects, as with any supplements or medicine, stop taking them and seek medical advice.

Supplements like adaptogens are not always as heavily researched as prescribed medicines, and there may not be studies proving their safety in certain circumstances. For that reason, ashwagandha and rhodiola should both be avoided if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you take thyroid medication or have an autoimmune disease, you should also avoid both of these supplements.

If you have diabetes or are on any blood pressure medicine, you should seek medical advice before taking ashwagandha or rhodiola, as the herbs may lower your blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

Always seek medical advice before taking adaptogens if you are concerned that they may interact with any existing medication or health conditions.

Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola – Which One Is Right For You?

Both ashwagandha and rhodiola have great benefits. They both support general wellness, and can improve your immune function, stress response and blood sugar levels.

However, they each have their own strengths, and if you are looking for any additional effects, you might want to consider what else the supplements can offer.

Ashwagandha may be the right choice for you if your priority is relaxation. Lowering your cortisol levels can make a huge difference to your life. Not only will you feel less stressed, but you’ll have a better level of wellness if you’re no longer struggling with high blood pressure, low libido, unexpected weight gain, or any of the other unpleasant side effects of high cortisol levels.

However, rhodiola may be the right one for you if your priority is energy and endurance. Also, unlike many adaptogens which may take several weeks to begin to work, previous studies have shown quick results. If you want to see quick changes in your fatigue, anxiety and stress levels, this may be the supplement for you!

If you can’t decide between them, you could always try both! There’s no reason you can’t take them both at the same time, as long as you don’t have any other contraindications.

You’re never going to be able to eliminate all of the possible causes of stress from your life. However, improving your physical response to stress is a great start.

So why not give ashwagandha, rhodiola, or even both, a try? We hope you’ll find they help you!

Rosemary Richards
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