Rhodiola vs Ashwagandha

Rhodiola vs Ashwagandha

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


If you have been doing some research on Ayurvedic medicine you most likely have stumbled upon rhodiola and ashwagandha. Both are well known and have been analyzed by clinicians for years with some surprisng results. 

If you want to know more about these two adaptogens we have looked through the evidence from reputable sources to help inform you. 

What is Rhodiola?

This herb, also known as rhodiola rosea, is a flowering perennial plant found in the Crassulaceae family. It's been used throughout history as a herbal medicine. Rhodiola is often referred to as "arctic root" or "golden root" and has clinical use as SHR-5. It grows naturally in high-altitude regions including the Arctic, eastern North America, and Central Asia.

Rhodiola's many benefits include increasing energy and endurance, and improving mental health. People with low self-esteem may also experience increased motivation. It can even help with depressive symptoms and depression. It can also increase mental capacity and focus. While the benefits of rhodiola are not yet conclusively proven, it is safe for human consumption.

Rhodiola is used in herbal medicine to treat stress and improve mental health. It affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) axis and impacts the adrenal glands, which secrete cortisol, a stress hormone. Additionally, it affects the enzyme mono-amine oxidase A, which is closely associated with the production of cortisol. These results may contribute to the herb's uplifting effect.

Another benefit of rhodiola is its anti-fatigue effects. It has been shown to improve cognitive functioning, fight fatigue, and reduce mental fog. Taking rhodiola every day may even make you more productive in your workplace! In addition, rhodiola has been shown to improve mood and improve performance, making it an ideal natural supplement for people who are feeling low on energy.

While it is noted for reducing stress and depression, a 2019 study didn't see a significant difference when its effects were examined on people suffering from sleep apnea.

What is Ashwagandha?

This Indian herb may reduce anxiety and improve sleep, reducing cortisol levels and improving stress scores. It also increases the body's immune function and improves memory. Researchers have also found that ashwagandha may reduce the risk of developing a form of cancer. People with chronic conditions may turn to it as a treatment

You can take ashwagandha as a tea by boiling the dried root in water or milk. This herbal tea can be flavored with cinnamon, ginger, or ghee. If you don't want the taste, you can mix a tablespoon of ashwagandha powder into your favorite sweet treats. 

Although research is ongoing, ashwagandha has shown promise in other areas of women's health. In particular, it safely supports thyroid function and sexual function.

One study reported that ashwagandha reduced cortisol levels and helped patients reduce their stress scores. Cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for the effects of stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha improved anxiety rating scores in patients who were experiencing moderate-to-severe levels. Furthermore, it improved cognition and mental health. It may be a natural solution to the problem of anxiety. 

Ashwagandha Benefits For Muscle and Strength

While the main claim to ashwagandha's muscle and strength benefits comes from a 2015 study which demonstrated 600mg daily could increase strength, the herb's other benefits go beyond its muscle building properties. It can also improve cardiovascular function, as well as cognitive abilities, in individuals with mild cognitive impairment. One study showed that ashwagandha significantly improved participants' VO2 max and cardiorespiratory endurance. These findings suggest that ashwagandha can be of great benefit to people who engage in physical activity, including physical labor and other forms of strenuous labor.

In a 2012 study, eighteen healthy volunteers were given varying ashwagandha doses over a 30-day period. They took ashwagandha 1000mg daily on days one to 10 and then increased the doses to 1250mg on days eleven to 20. Researchers evaluated the subjects' grip strength and force with the flexor-absorptor muscles, quadriceps, and back extensors. Overall, the study participants' grip strength increased by 8%, quadriceps force by 21.5%, and back extensor force by 15.4%.

Although the study only included 50 men, its findings were consistent with other reports of ashwagandha's benefits. The herb's adaptogenic properties may make it useful as an adjunct to strength training. Further research is needed to determine if ashwagandha benefits muscle and strength in older adults. It should be studied in different populations, including women and men. This way, researchers will know if it has positive effects in a large group of people.

Does Rhodiola Rosea Benefit Muscle and Strength?

Rhodiola rosea has been studied for its antioxidant activity, but it has also demonstrated in 2010 study to reduce lactate levels and skeletal muscle damage after bouts of exhaustive exercise. While there are some reports that suggest rhodiola can increase human exercise capacity, however, there are still many limitations to the previous studies. Furthermore, there is no standardization of herbal extracts, so different studies may have used different amounts of the bioactive compounds.

Although rhodiola is generally safe in moderate doses and short-term use, there are some adverse effects associated with it. A few trial participants reported dizziness and dry mouth. Adaptogens may interact with other drugs, such as antihypertensives. As with any supplement, you should consult your doctor before beginning any rhodiola regimen. This herb may cause some side effects, but the risks of adverse reactions are low.

A four-week rhodiola study on endurance exercises found mixed results. While rhodiola supplementation did improve VO2 max, no other measurable changes were noted in muscle strength, speed of limb movement, attention, or reaction time. A review of studies looking at rhodiola, found positive results for an anti-inflammatory effects helping to protect against diseases. 

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Does Ashwagandha Help With Sleep?

This plant contains triethylene glycol, which is a compound that helps induce sleep. Ashwagandha also contains compounds called withanolides, which influence the body's response to stress. Stress is known to negatively impact sleep quality and cause daytime sleepiness.

While sleep is an essential part of our health, poor sleep quality can lead to increased stress levels, mood swings, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Ashwagandha has been studied in a placebo-controlled, double-blind study.

Two studies have shown that Ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety. One study was conducted at the Prakruti Hospital in Kalwa, Maharashtra, India. In the trial, 60 participants were assigned to a test group and a control group. The test group received the highest concentration of full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract, while the placebo contained starch. Participants were given these two treatments twice a day for 10 weeks. Researchers used sleep actigraphy to measure sleep onset latency and total sleep time. They also assessed sleep efficiency and waking after sleep onset.

Does Rhodiola Benefit Sleep?

Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb with numerous health benefits. The herb has been found to reduce mental fatigue, and increase mental work performance. It is also known to improve memory. It may help patients with ADHD and improve cognitive stability. 

However, there isnt any reputable evidence that would suggest it can be used as a sleep aid. 

Does Ashwagandha Increase Testosterone?

The plant Ashwagandha has traditionally been used in traditional Indian medicine for its stress-relieving abilities. It is also commonly known as Indian ginseng. Research has shown that Ashwagandha can improve male fertlity without any untoward side effects.

In addition to its ability to increase testosterone levels, Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen. Its effects on a person will differ from one individual to the next. Ashwagandha largely affects the endocrine system, which regulates hormone production. 

Research has found that ashwagandha has a positive effect on reducing cortisol and increasing testosterone levels. One study saw an increase of 11% whereas the placebo group noted no increase of testosterone. 

For females, ashwagandha has demonstrated a 0.2% reduction in testosterone. 

Does Rhodiola Increase Testosterone? 

The Advances in Nutrition Journal published a systematic review of numerous herbs and extracts that have purported positive effects on testosterone concentrations in men. 

Rhodiola offered no benefit over the placebo group. However, fenugreek and ashwagandha did show a positive effect on T-levels.

Unwanted Side Effects of Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is a flowering plant that grows in high-altitude regions in North America and Europe. As discussed the plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, fatigue, and depression

While Rhodiola is generally considered safe for moderate dosages and short-term use, there are some side effects that may be problematic. Dizziness and dry mouth were reported by a small number of study participants. In vitro studies, rhodiola may interact with liver enzymes. Other side effects may include:

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Palpatations
  • Over stimulation 

Ashwagandha Side Effects

As with all medications, there are some potential side effects of ashwagandha. In some cases, ashwagandha can be contraindicated if you have a certain medical condition or are taking other medications. If you have a medical condition, consult with your doctor before taking ashwagandha to ensure it won't interfere with your treatment or increase your risk of side effects. This herb has many benefits and is a great way to help balance your hormones.

Although Ashwagandha is generally safe to use for therapeutic purposes, although some online resources state that it should be avoided uring pregnancy as it may cause a miscarriage or interfere with breastfeeding. Taking Ashwagandha should not be taken by people with autoimmune diseases. 

Research into potential liver toxicity has not demonstrated any cause for concern but it is noted that high doses may cause the following issues:

  • Gastointenstinal upset
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Which is Best? 

Both of these aptogenic herbs from Ayurvedic medicine have their benefits, but they do differ slightly. Therefore, it is entirely what you either want to acheive from your training regime or what condition you would like to address. 

Both are known to treat stress and the symptoms of depression notwithstanding the positive evidence regarding inflammation.

Where do they differ?

Ashwagandha helps with sleep, muscle recovery and promoting strength. It also has a positive effect on testosterone levels

Rhodiola can reduce lactate and muscular damage, it can also improve VO2max results. 

At Military Muscle we include Ashwagandha in our supplement because we know the importance of sleep for muscular recovery, and testosterone production for our customer base

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