Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea: Which Adaptogen Wins?

ashwagandha vs rhodiola rosea

Life can easily get in our way of living, these days more than ever. Stress has become synonymous with modern lifestyle and we can’t imagine that changing anytime soon.

If you’ve been deciding between Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea to help with stress, anxiety, focus and productivity, then you’ve landed just in the right place.

Is Ashwagandha better than Rhodiola? Or is it the other way around? The truth is, both herbs come with their own set of benefits, but they also share some common benefits between them too.

Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola help you:

  • Cope better with internal and external stress.
  • Feel more energetic after both a single-dose and long-term use, leading to improved work rate and cognitive performance under pressure.
  • Bring the body back in homeostasis.
  • Boost emotional outlook and well-being through non-stimulatory pathways.

But the question still stands, which one is better? Rhodiola or Ashwagandha? And should you take the two together? All of this and more will be answered in the following sections of the article, and if you have any questions afterwards, don’t forget to ask in the comments below!

Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea at a Glance

If you don’t want to trawl through our complete Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola post, here are the take-home points you should remember:

  1. In both cases, the root of Ashwagandha and Rhodiola is used to make medicine.
  2. Both herbs are used to treat fatigue, stress, support the nervous system and physical endurance.
  3. Ashwagandha’s unique advantage is the ability to boost the immune system, testosterone, fertility, and muscle strength, while reducing cortisol by as much as 30%.
  4. Rhodiola is also beneficial for stress & anxiety, but its distinctive benefits are the increased physical endurance and energy levels, resistance to fatigue, and enhanced focus and productivity.
  5. Combined, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola provide clean, non-stimulatory energy and focus, while minimizing the effects of stress and ‘burnout’ on the body.

What do These Herbs Have in Common?

Both Rhodiola and Ashwagandha’s beneficial compounds are mainly found in their roots. Both herbs are used by herbalists to battle stress and fatigue, enhance endurance, boost physical performance, and most notably, support our nervous system.

Within the real of clinical studies, Ashwagandha’s strongest benefit is its ability to reduce pain and swelling in people with arthritis, as well as supporting our immunity to illness.

Rhodiola’s most researched benefit is its ability to combat fatigue, while enhancing your performance in high-pressure situations.

RELATED: Our In-Depth Rhodiola Rosea Review

Ashwagandha Benefits

You’ll find Ashwagandha growing throughout North Africa and Southeast Asia. The benefits of ashwagandha for the body and mind are vast. People from India are particularly fond of this herb – they’ve been using it for over 3000 years!

ashwagandha nootropic

1. Helps Alleviate Anxiety & Depression

Ashwagandha is best known for its mood-boosting qualities. In one study, Ashwagandha was reported to reduce insomnia and chronic stress by 60%. As impressive as this result is, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Ashwagandha helps to regulate your brain’s chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, which is why it’s so powerful at promoting a healthy emotional outlook and well-being. (1)

2. Improves Your Resilience to Stress

There’s probably no better herb for reducing stress than Ashwagandha. Heaps of research suggest that it is especially beneficial for reducing cortisol levels – by as much as 30% in some studies. (2)

3. Supports Men’s Hormones

When it comes to boosting testosterone and libido, Ashwagandha is one of the best natural herbs for this goal. Not only does it support the muscle-building anabolic hormone, but it’s also shown to improve sperm count, quality, and mobility. (3)

4. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels

A number of studies reported that Ashwagandha helps reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. One study even showed that the Ayurvedic herb was as effective as diabetes medication. (4) This is great news for fitness enthusiasts as well, because these findings suggest that Ashwagandha promotes a healthy & lean body composition.

RELATED: Bacopa Monnieri Review – Benefits, Side Effects, How it Works and More

5. Regulates Inflammation

Different studies have examined Ashwagandha’s effects on inflammation, and all of them show impressive results. Ashwagandha’s antioxidants stimulate your body’s natural killer cells to protect your body against foreign invaders and bolster the immune system. However, people with autoimmune conditions should speak with their doctor before taking Ashwagandha – the last thing you want is your immune system being stronger when it’s attacking itself. (5)

6. Protects the Brain

Ashwagandha’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities protect your nerve cells against disease, oxidative stress, and damage. Studies show that long-term Ashwagandha users tend to show better memory and concentration than non-users. (6)

Rhodiola Benefits

You might have heard of Rhodiola under different names, including Golden Root, King’s Crown, and Arctic Root. Unlike Ashwagandha, it grows in polar regions of Euroasia – it has a particular affinity for cold and harsh environments in the mountains of Siberia.

rhodiola rosea as a nootropic for mitochondria

Koreans, Russians, and Chinese have all taken advantage of this herb’s amazing benefits for centuries. Rhodiola was used in Russia to help soldiers and farmers withstand their harsh living conditions. It was also used as an energizing tonic to make workers more productive.

You can get Rhodiola in three forms: capsules or tablets, as a powder, or as a liquid extract. Much like Ashwgandha, Rhodiola is an adaptogen with its own set of actions, antioxidants, and beneficial effects on our physical and mental well-being.

1. Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Adaptogens are particularly effective at supporting mental health due to their ability to balance our brain chemistry. Studies show that Rhodiola helps regulate neurotransmitters in your brain – similar to what an antidepressant medication does. (7)

In fact, Rhodiola is so effective at alleviating the ‘blues’ that its effects were compared to Sertaline (Zoloft). The study which compared the effects of the two showed that Rhodiola possessed a better “benefit-to-risk” ratio than the antidepressant medication. (8)

Another clinical trial showed a reduction in insomnia and depression symptoms. People who took higher doses of Rhodiola even saw improved self-esteem. (9)

2. Boosts Energy Levels

When it comes to boosting energy, there’s no competition between Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea – Rhodiola is the clear winner. It’s so powerful that it even helps people with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). A study showed that just one week of taking Rhodiola led to remarkable improvements in people’s mood and quality of life. (10) People who need to stay on top of their work – such as CEOs, writers, and busy professionals – could benefit the most from Rhodiola’s productivity-boosting effects.

3. Supports Healthy Blood Sugar and Insulin

Rhodiola makes your cells more efficient at absorbing glucose. Additionally, some animal studies showed that Rhodiola might help control diabetes. Since increased stress hormone levels over a prolonged period of time increase our blood sugar levels, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Rhodiola’s anti-stress benefits also contribute to its ability to lower blood glucose. (11)

4. Improves Exercise Capacity

Russian soldiers and athletes have used Rhodiola for years due to its ability to boost physical performance. It’s the perfect legal performance enhancer. (12) Rhodiola works by reducing the perceived exertion during exercise, which makes it excellent for those who’re new to working out and need an extra push to make it through their intense training sessions.

5. Makes Your Dreams More Vivid

This is mostly anecdotal, but lots of people have reported having more vivid dreams after using Rhodiola. On a personal note, I experienced this too. Rhodiola improved my dream vividness and color. This makes it perfect if you want to lucid dream.

Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea Side Effects

Just like any other compound out there, both Rhodiola and Ashwagandha have their own set of interactions and side effects.

Ashwagandha can strengthen your immune system, lower blood glucose, stimulate the thyroid, calm the central nervous system, and reduce blood pressure. If you’re on a medication, especially if it’s for an autoimmune disorder, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or low blood pressure, talk to your doctor before using Ashwagandha.

RELATED: Best Herbs for Neurogenesis

Rhodiola too can stimulate your immune system, regulate blood sugar, and lower blood pressure. Therefore, if you suffer from any kind of medical condition that could be affected by Rhodiola’s mechanisms, get approval from an MD before supplementing it.

People under 18, pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t take either Rhodiola or Ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea for Specific Goals

Let’s say you have a specific issue, or goal in mind. Between Ashwagandha and Rhodiola, what’s better for that specific goal? See for yourself:

Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, both Rhodiola and Ashwagandha have been shown to be effective at relieving it. However, anecdotal evidence on the internet gives us a bit different picture. For some people, Ashwagandha is the best at reducing anxiety. For others, Rhodiola worked better. In some cases, it’s the combination of both Rhodiola and Ashwagandha that gives the biggest benefit in terms of anxiety reduction. The bottom line: it boils down to your unique brain and body chemistry which one will work better for you.

Stress

Ashwagandha vs. Rhodiola for stress: which one is better? In this case, Ashwagandha takes the win because it’s generally seen as more calming than Rhodiola. Additionally, Ashwagandha’s effects on cortisol are the strongest out of any herb we know of right now.

Focus & Productivity

For focus and productivity, Rhodiola is the better choice between the two. It’s more energizing and more effective at supporting your dopamine brain levels. As dopamine is the molecule of motivation and success, anything that enhances it will benefit your work rate and mental concentration.

Motivation

Again, Rhodiola takes the lead here. As an MAOi inhibitor, Rhodiola slows down the breakdown of dopamine in the brain, similar to how some ADHD medications work. Ultimately, this helps you stay more motivated to do the chores and tasks you’d otherwise find boring.

Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Together

The best way to get the most out of Rhodiola and Ashwagandha is by taking them together. The two adaptogens share many beneficial properties, but in general, Ashwagandha is seen as more relaxing whereas Rhodiola is more invigorating. Taking the two together will give you a clean, focused, and calm energy throughout the day.

Can You Combine Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea with Phosphatidylserine?

Yes, you can. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a fatty compound found in high concentrations in the brain. It works by keeping your cortisol levels down, which reduces the effects of mental and physical stress.

Phosphatidylserine is an impressive brain supplement on its own – in fact, it’s the only dietary supplement to receive a qualified health claim from FDA, in regards to dementia and cognitive decline. (13)

Combined with Rhodiola and Ashwagandha, Phosphatidylserine can offer amazing benefits for your cognitive health, performance and well-being.

RELATED: What are the Benefits of Phosphatidylserine?

Anything Else to Consider?

It’s worth keeping in mind that Ashwagandha and Rhodiola, and other supplements mentioned in this post, are addons rather than cures.

They won’t give you superpowers – they’re here to support your lifestyle and wellness goals. You should use them as an adjunction to strong foundations you’ve built through proper diet, regular exercise, and healthy sleep.

Final Thoughts on Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola Rosea

The best way to support your brain health and mental well-being is to take care of the foundations. Then add a good supplement on top of that.

Rhodiola and Ashwagandha are both great choices for reducing stress, improving mental awareness, and boosting vitality. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can take either Ashwagandha or Rhodiola alone, or use both.

We recommend Ashwagandha as the ideal option for stress and anxiety relief, and calming the nerves down. Rhodiola Rosea is the better option if you need more energy and mental focus during the day. Ideally, you should consider using them both for the biggest impact on your daily wellness and performance.

References
  1. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. (source)
  2. A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. (source)
  3. Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility. (source)
  4. Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root. (source)
  5. In vivo effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on the activation of lymphocytes. (source)
  6. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. (source)
  7. Monoamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots. (source)
  8. Rhodiola rosea versus sertraline for major depressive disorder: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. (source)
  9. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. (source)
  10. Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial. (source)
  11. Salidroside, A Natural Antioxidant, Improves β-Cell Survival and Function via Activating AMPK Pathway. (source)
  12. The Effect of Acute Rhodiola rosea Ingestion on Exercise Heart Rate, Substrate Utilisation, Mood State, and Perceptions of Exertion, Arousal, and Pleasure/Displeasure in Active Men. (source)
  13. Qualified Health Claims: Letters of Enforcement Discretion. (source)

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About Valentino M. 86 Articles
Valentino is a nutritionist, author, spiritual practitioner, and health coach. He's been researching nutrition and brain health since 2015, and has launched Valentino's Naturals to help people maximize their cognitive performance. When he isn't writing, Valentino loves to travel around Europe, spend time recharging in nature, and research topics within his field of expertise. More...

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