Sometimes you hear about so many herbs that they all start to blend together.
That’s especially the case when they have similar benefits and actions, so you’re not alone if you can’t tell herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha apart.
Both are potent adaptogens that can help relieve stress, boost energy, and more.
Still, it helps to know the difference so you can choose the best one for your unique needs.
So today, we’re going to analyze ashwagandha vs rhodiola and discuss why you may prefer one herb over the other in certain situations.
First up - ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is a very popular adaptogen predominantly grown in Southern Asia and North Africa.
While it boasts several health benefits, its ability to help the body adapt to any form of stress is arguably its best feature.
Though its been used and loved for centuries, studies have recently shown that there are even more benefits of ashwagandha than previously thought.
Let’s look at a few.
This herb is able to help relieve stress via several mechanisms, but the most straightforward is its ability to suppress the body’s production of cortisol.
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.”
Although cortisol doesn’t cause stress, it is responsible for some of its associated symptoms like palpitations, increased blood pressure, and anxiety.
By decreasing cortisol production, studies show that ashwagandha can help reduce some of the symptoms of stress.
Another randomized controlled study verified that ashwagandha can reduce anxiety and depression associated with chronic stress.
Results from this study recorded as high as a 60% reduction in symptoms, including sleep disorders such as insomnia.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of ashwagandha cannot be overlooked. One reason it fights inflammation so effectively is thanks to its antioxidant content.
These help neutralize reactive molecules of oxygen and nitrogen that are largely responsible for inflammation’s destructive effects.
Studies also show that ashwagandha stimulates the immune system by boosting the roles of natural killer cells in fighting off infectious and inflammatory processes.
In a generation where mental health is becoming an increasingly relevant topic, remedies that improve healthy brain function should be championed.
Studies have shown that ashwagandha can do just that.
Cognition encompasses memory, intelligence, speech, and concentration - and ashwagandha has been shown to aid it all.
Rhodiola may not be as popular as ashwagandha, but it’s still a commonly used herb with impressive benefits.
It grows mainly in northern Europe and Asia and goes by several names, including golden root and king’s crown.
The processed product comes in three primary forms: capsules or tablets, powder extract, and liquid tinctures.
Just like ashwagandha, rhodiola is an adaptogen, albeit with different mechanisms of action.
Fatigue affects a large portion of the population and can be caused by inadequate sleep, insomnia, anxiety, or stress.
These are certainly not the only causes but are the most common reasons behind both physical and mental exhaustion.
Fortunately, rhodiola has adaptogenic properties that help the body cope with any upsets caused by a lack of balance.
In one study where participants received 576mg of rhodiola, it proved effective in reducing levels of fatigue while also improving attention when compared to the placebo group.
Studies now show that rhodiola offers promising benefits when it comes to improving physical performance as well.
One in particular found out that people who used rhodiola were able to exercise for an average of 24 seconds longer than those who didn’t.
At face value, 24 seconds may seem like a small amount of time, but in a race, it can mean the difference between first and second place!
Managing blood glucose levels with rhodiola has been hypothesized following successful results in animal-based studies. However, whether it does the same in humans remains to be seen.
For now, we’re just left with anecdotal evidence.
Studies have shown that rhodiola is undoubtedly effective in controlling diabetes in rats by lowering their blood sugar.
According to studies, it does so by increasing the number of glucose transporters in the blood while also stimulating the uptake of glucose by cells.
When it comes down to it, there aren’t many situations where either of the herbs would be better than the other.
Despite having different mechanisms of action, their overall health benefits are somewhat the same and can effectively manage any issue that warrants the use of an adaptogen (so things like stress, fatigue, etc).
Nevertheless, these herbs are not entirely the same.
Professional herbalists and long-term herbal users can discern even the slightest of therapeutic nuances between ashwagandha and rhodiola.
Taking our cues from them, here are a few tips for choosing between these two incredible adaptogens.
The shortest answer to this is yes! You can combine ashwagandha and rhodiola. In fact, many effective supplements these days do.
The reason why is because they work through different mechanisms of action while achieving almost the same benefits.
Using them in combination only provides a heightened response in most cases.
But there is a catch.
They have different side effects. So if you take them together and experience some sort of reaction, you won’t know which one caused it.
Fortunately, most people do not experience such side effects. However, always consult a qualified herbal specialist with any questions prior to taking.
And even though they have solid safety profiles, it’s best to avoid use in children, pregnant mothers, or mothers who are breastfeeding until more studies can verify safety.