Herbs have been used in ancient medicine for many ailments. Many of these same herbs are still used today, with the science to back up their claims. If you are looking for a powerful herb to boost your body's resistance to stress, you may look to ashwagandha or Rhodiola — but is one better than the other?
Read on to learn more about these amazing herbs and their potential benefits to your overall well-being. We will also go over how these two herbs are different from one another. Finally, we will touch on some of the potential side effects and precautions of ashwagandha and Rhodiola.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a small, flowering shrub native to India and Southeast Asia, and it translates to “smell of the horse” for both its strong potential health benefits and its horse-like smell. Other names for this plant are Indian ginseng and winter cherry. Its botanical name is Withania somnifera.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an incredibly important herb. It is considered to be an adaptogenic herb, and adaptogens are known for their ability to help the body process stress.
Ashwagandha is often available in powder form, made from the root and leaves of the plant. Ashwagandha can be used orally for many health benefits and topically for skin health.
What Is Rhodiola?
Rhodiola, or Rhodiola rosea, is a succulent plant with yellow flowers native to the arctic and mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Its flowers have a smell resembling a rose, and it's also known as arctic root or golden root. The use of Rhodiola has a long history in Russia, Scandinavian, and other parts of Europe.
Rhodiola is also known as an adaptogen, helping your body process stress. While you can consume the stems and leaves of the plant, it is the roots that hold the medicinal benefits. You can generally find Rhodiola in liquid extract or powder form.
What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha?
For thousands of years ashwagandha has been shown to have many health benefits. It’s no wonder herbalists today still use this powerful herb. You can find ashwagandha in some of our convenient superfoods in our Deluxe 5-Day Reset to help jumpstart your wellness journey.
This ayurvedic herb has been used for supporting immunity, boosting energy levels, promoting physical endurance, and nourishing overall well-being. Here are just a few more specific ways you may see its benefits:
Reduced Feelings of Tension
Feelings of tension due to stress are a common ailment in many adults. When we are in stressful situations, the stress hormone cortisol is released from our adrenal glands.
Cortisol is responsible for the "fight or flight" response in your body, preparing your body for a stressful event. This hormone is crucial in keeping us safe, but when we are in a state of chronic stress, high cortisol levels can lower our immune system and affect other functions in our bodies.
Ashwagandha may benefit mental health by supporting healthy cortisol levels. This herb can support a healthy response to stress so that you feel better equipped to handle the obstacles that come your way. It may also support your overall wellness by helping to prevent negative side effects of elevated cortisol, like weight gain and high blood pressure.
Kroma’s Change Your Life Chai Latte includes ashwagandha alongside turmeric and cordyceps to soothe stress and support immunity.
Hormone health is important for the entire body.
Hormones give chemical messages to your body. Hormones control reproductive health, mental health, metabolism, and sleep. Ashwagandha may be beneficial in maintaining a healthy balance of hormones in both men and women.
There is research being done on the effects of ashwagandha on the reproductive system in both males and females. For men, it may support the health of sperm. For women, it may support healthy levels of the luteinizing hormone, which triggers ovulation, or the release of an egg from the ovary.
Our Spicy Passion Latte contains ashwagandha, as well as cacao, maca, and goji to support libido and reproductive health.
Blood Sugar Support
Ashwagandha may support healthy metabolic function. Blood sugar, or blood glucose, plays an essential role in metabolic function and the whole body. Glucose is transported by blood through the body, and it is what most cells use as energy.
The hormone insulin, released from the pancreas, is used to pull glucose out of the blood into the cells. If blood sugars or insulin become out of balance, it can affect heart, kidney, and skin health, and increase blood pressure.
Cognitive function in adults is the ability to think, learn, and remember. It's our ability to make sense of the world and our environment through our experiences, thoughts, and senses. As we age, our cognition declines. Ashwagandha may support memory, attention, and executive function.
What Are the Benefits of Rhodiola?
Rhodiola has been used over time to help the body process stress. There are even stories of the Vikings using this powerful adaptogenic herb. More and more scientific research is being done around the effectiveness of Rhodiola for certain conditions. Here are a few benefits Rhodiola may bring.
Rhodiola may offer overall mood support. Many factors play into your mood, from your environment to your stress, even your diet and sleep patterns.
Bad days or difficult life events can take a damper on your mood, but your mood can also be affected by different chemicals in the brain, one being serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate anxiety, happiness, and overall moods and emotions.
Your stress response can also affect your mood. Rhodiola is thought to assist your body with its stress resistance. If your body is more equipped to process stress, it may, in turn, support your mood.
In studies, Rhodiola has been shown to support the central nervous system and cognitive functioning. Cognitive function is important for creativity, problem-solving, and communication. While it is natural for our cognitive function to lessen with age and other outside influences, finding ways to slow that regression is beneficial for overall health and well-being.
Blood Sugar Support
Supporting blood sugar levels has many benefits for the overall body. When your sugars are balanced, you may experience more energy, weight management, better focus, and glowy skin.
Your blood sugars can become out of balance because of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when your cells don’t respond to insulin and can’t properly release the glucose.
In turn, your pancreas will continue to make more and more insulin and blood sugar levels continue to rise, potentially leading to certain health conditions. Rhodiola may support healthy metabolic function for overall wellness.
Energy and Endurance Support
Rhodiola has been used for endurance and physical strength since the days of the Vikings. Physical performance can benefit many different areas of the body. Being active can benefit weight management, metabolic function, and mental health.
Since Rhodiola may also play a role in the way your body processes stress, you may be more likely to have physical energy, instead of feeling stressed and mentally fatigued.
How Do Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Differ?
There are many similarities between ashwagandha and Rhodiola. They are both adaptogenic herbs used for stress, blood sugar management, cognitive function, hormone support, and endurance. Even with their similarities, they do have their differences.
Many herbalists recommend ashwagandha to reduce stress levels, support cognitive health, balance hormones, and support mental health. While Rhodiola may be recommended to improve your energy levels and boost your physical endurance.
Can Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Be Used Together?
Both Ashwagandha and Rhodiola offer many of the same stress-relieving benefits to the body. There isn’t a known reason why they cannot be used together. By combining both herbs, you may gain the benefits of both, like calm, focus, energy, and endurance.
How Do I Know Which Herb Is Right for Me?
While both Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are both adaptogens, your body may react to one herb better than another. If you are looking for a more calming effect, Ashwagandha may be more beneficial for you. If you are after energy and endurance, look into trying Rhodiola.
Another consideration is each of the herb’s potential side effects. It is important to find the supplements that make you feel your best and not cause added problems. Herbs affect everyone differently. Your dose size and how you react to each adaptogen will depend on your own physiology.
What Side Effects Are Associated with Ashwagandha?
As with any herb, taking too much may cause unwanted side effects. Before we talk about potential side effects, let's go over how much ashwagandha is thought to be an appropriate amount. 500 to 600 milligrams a day should provide many of the benefits of ashwagandha without causing side effects.
If you are concerned that you may experience side effects, start with a small dose and gradually increase every few days.
Potential for Stomach Upset
The biggest side effect of ashwagandha is reported to be stomach issues.
Consuming too much ashwagandha may cause diarrhea, nausea, and an upset stomach. Ashwagandha may work well on an empty stomach for some people, but if you experience stomach upset, it may be best to take it along with a snack. Ashwagandha is also easy to add to a morning smoothie — try it with our Blueberry Acai Plant Protein smoothie for a delicious pick-me-up!
While ashwagandha is generally considered safe, it may interact with certain thyroid, diabetes, and high blood pressure medications. It is best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are on any medications to ensure there is no reaction.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor before taking ashwagandha.
It may also negatively affect people with autoimmune conditions, thyroid disorders, or diabetes. Again, talk to your doctor if you have any of these conditions or would like personalized recommendations on ashwagandha benefits and dosage.
What Side Effects Are Associated With Rhodiola?
The recommended dose range for Rhodiola is between 100 and 500 mg. As with any herb, starting at a smaller dose and increasing slowly to avoid any side effects is often better. It is best to take Rhodiola on an empty stomach, but not before bed. It may cause sleep issues if taken too close to bedtime.
More is not always better, especially when it comes to medicinal herbs. Taking too much Rhodiola may increase feelings of unease instead of helping to calm them.
Rhodiola may cause stomach upset and diarrhea. If you suspect your Rhodiola supplement is causing your upset stomach, try cutting back on your dose. It may take trial and error to find the right balance of experiencing the benefits of Rhodiola without the side effects.
If you do not struggle with headaches but notice them after starting a Rhodiola supplement, it may be a side effect.
While uncommon, Rhodiola may cause headaches. If you suspect Rhodiola is causing your headaches, you can try reducing your dosage or cutting it out altogether.
Generally, Rhodiola is thought to boost your energy and endurance. For some, the opposite effect may be true. Rhodiola has been known to cause drowsiness in a select amount of people. If you are just beginning to add Rhodiola to your daily routine, you may want to give it a few days to see how it affects you.
Rhodiola is generally considered safe in small doses. If you take prescription medications, it is important to talk to your pharmacist or doctor to determine if Rhodiola will be safe for you to use.
If you have any medical conditions, especially mental illnesses, it is important to talk to your doctor about the potential risk of taking Rhodiola.
As always, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is always best to speak to your doctor before starting any medications or herb protocol.
The Bottom Line
Both ashwagandha and Rhodiola have been used for centuries or longer by ancient medical systems to support the body’s resistance to stress. Ashwagandha has been thought to support overall mood, hormone levels, blood sugars, and cognitive function. Kroma’s Spicy Passion Latte puts ashwagandha, maca, and chaga to the test, supporting your energy levels and libido.
Rhodiola has been believed to benefit mood, cognitive function, blood sugar levels, and endurance. While both of these herbs have similarities, many people believe that ashwagandha helps calm you while Rhodiola helps support your energy.
Listen to your body if you have decided to add herbs to your daily routine. Herbs can come with side effects, just like medication. If you have certain health conditions, always reach out to your doctor before starting a new herb or supplement.
At Kroma, we believe in bringing you the most powerful superfoods available for your optimum health. You will find adaptogens in our 5-Day Lifestyle Reset. Our reset program is delicious, full of nutrition, and convenient to take with you anywhere you go.
An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda | PMC
Rhodiola rosea L.: an herb with anti-stress, anti-aging, and immunostimulating properties for cancer chemoprevention | PMC
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 | PubMed
Effects of Withania somnifera on Reproductive System: A Systematic Review of the Available Evidence | PubMed
Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of scientific evidence from experimental research to clinical application | PubMed
Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions | PubMed
The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms | PubMed
Rhodiola rosea L. Improves Learning and Memory Function: Preclinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms | PMC
Treatment with Rhodiola crenulata root extract ameliorates insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats by modulating sarcolemmal and intracellular fatty acid translocase/CD36 redistribution in skeletal muscle | PMC
Rhodiola rosea for physical and mental fatigue: a systematic review | PMC