Ginseng vs. Rhodiola: Differences Explained

Ginseng and rhodiola are two herbs that are often compared because of their many similarities. However, there are also some key differences between these herbs that you should be aware …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ginseng and rhodiola are two herbs that are often compared because of their many similarities.

However, there are also some key differences between these herbs that you should be aware of before choosing one or the other.

In this article, we’ll dig into the differences between ginseng vs. rhodiola, as well as their similarities.

health benefits of ginseng vs. rhodiola

Ginseng Overview & Uses:

Ginseng is an adaptogen that’s been used for millenia in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Ginseng is regarded to be an essential herb in TCM for increasing energy and longevity.

It should be noted that there are two primary types of ginseng, Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American Ginseng (panax quinquefolius). You can read our in-depth article about the differences between these two different types of ginseng here.

While these different types of ginseng are different, they both provide similar health benefits.

Research shows that ginseng has a variety of benefits, including blood sugar regulation, cognitive function, and heart health.

1. May Support Brain Health

Ginseng has long been prized for its neuroprotectant qualities.

A human clinical trial discovered that people who took American ginseng extract had improved working memory, reaction time, and sense of calm.

2. May Support Blood Sugar Stability

Ginseng has been shown in several studies to help support blood sugar stability.

According to an in vitro study, American ginseng improved glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity. It’s thought that this mechanism may be useful in lowering blood sugar levels.

A clinical study of American ginseng taken with a meal revealed that it helped to lower blood sugar spikes by 20% in both non-diabetic and diabetic people.

3. Antimicrobial Properties

According to studies, many of the phytochemicals present in ginseng have antibacterial and antifungal activity.

A study found that ginsenosides, a phytochemical found in ginseng, demonstrated anti-staphylococcal activity. The leaves, roots, and hairy root cultures of ginseng were also discovered to contain antibacterial phytochemicals.

Learn more about the health benefits of ginseng.

ginseng vs. rhodiola - benefits of ginseng

Rhodiola Overview & Uses:

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that is known for enhancing mental concentration and energy.

As a plant, rhodiola grows in the far northern reaches of the earth. It’s harvested for its golden root.

Rhodiola has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including increased attention and focus, decreased tiredness, enhanced memory, and as a treatment for mild depression.

1. May Help With Stress Management

Rhodiola is known as a stress-reducing adaptogen.

A phase III clinical trial involving people who suffered from stress-related fatigue were given 576mg of rhodiola extract per day. Multiple stress indexes showed a decrease in stress levels.

The researchers also noted that the individuals who took rhodiola also had a decrease in cortisol response.

2. May Improve Coginitive Function

In several investigations, rhodiolia has been proven to improve learning and memory recall.

A recent meta-analysis study showed that rhodiola helps to improve learning and memory function.

According to this study, Rhodiola rosea‘s ability to affect brain function is due to its antioxidant properties.

3. May Help Reduce Mild Depression

Rhodiola has some promising research suggesting that it may be able to help individuals struggling with mild depression.

A human clinical trial showed that taking ~1000mg of Rhodiola rosea extract daily worked to increase mental well-being in patients with mild depression.

Overall depression, as well as insomnia and emotional instability, improved considerably in the experimental group after therapy, whereas the placebo group did not.

You can learn more about the health benefits of rhodiola here.

ginseng vs. rhodiola - benefits of rhodiola

Ginseng vs. Rhodiola: Similarities & Differences

Both ginseng and rhodiola are adaptogenic herbs, which means they have the potential to assist the body in adapting to both physiological and psychological stress.

Even though both herbs have similar adaptogenic abilities, they differ in how they impact the body.

Ginseng is known for its ability to stimulate the body and increase stress resilience. It also may be able to aid in blood sugar regulation, which is great for individuals who struggle from blood sugar spikes.

Ginseng’s antimicrobial properties shouldn’t be ignored; it is a fantastic herb for killing off harmful bacteria.

Rhodiola is typically used as a nootropic to increase energy levels and boost mental performance. It’s an extremely energizing herb that’s ideal for people who need a boost of energy.

Keep in mind that rhodiola’s energizing ability can have side effects, so it is not recommended for those who suffer from insomnia or anxiety.

Can You Rhodiola And Ginseng Together?

Yes, you can safely take ginseng and rhodiola together.

In fact, an animal study was conducted which showed that taking rhodiola and ginseng together helped to minimize exercise-related stress.

However, it’s important to note that taking these two herbs together will be very stimulating to your body.

Both of these herbs work to energize the body and brain, so it’s best to take them in the morning (think of them as a caffeine-free pick-me-up).

If you are high-stress individuals that struggle with anxious thoughts, ashwagandha may be a better adaptogen for you.

Ginseng vs. Rhodiola: Which Is Right For You?

Rhodiola is more of a mentally stimulating herb. It works to improve mental focus and energy. It also has the ability to help get you in a better mood.

Ginseng is more of a physically energizing herb. It works to improve your body’s physical energy. It’s perfect for long days at work, especially for those that have a physically demanding job.

So which herb is better?

It depends on what your body needs. If you work an office job and want a mental edge, then rhodiola may be the better option. However, if you want to improve physical energy and vitality, ginseng is the way to go.

Or, you can take them both at the same time and get the best of both worlds.

Ginseng Might Be Right For You If:

•You need a physical energy boost

•You work a physical job and need all-day energy

•You need help with stabilizing your blood sugar

Rhodiola Might Be Right For You If:

•You work a mentally demanding job and need mental energy

•You need more mental focus and attention to detail

•You struggle from depressive thoughts

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

Herbs, like all medicines, have the potential to interact adversely with your body.

That said, ginseng is well tolerated, especially at low-to-moderate doses.

However, it’s been noted in the literature that high doses of American ginseng can impact how your body utilizes the medication warfarin. If you take a blood-thinning drug like Coumadin®, it’s best to avoid taking ginseng.

You can find a full safety profile review of ginseng here.

Rhodiola is generally a very safe plant to take. There are no reported adverse interactions between rhodiola and medication.

It should be noted that rhodiola can negatively impact the sleep of some individuals due to its stimulating effect, so it may not be a great herb for those with sleeping problems.

You can find a full safety profile review on rhodiola here.

Conclusion:

Both ginseng and rhodiola have a variety of health benefits. Picking the best herb depends on your body’s needs.

If you want a physical energy boost for your physically demanding job, then ginseng is perfect for you. If you struggle with mental fatigue from work or depressive thoughts, then rhodiola may be your best option.

As always, make sure to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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