Rhodiola vs. Ashwagandha: Differences Explained

Rhodiola and ashwagandha are two adaptogenic herbs that are often compared due to their many similarities. However, there are certain distinctions between these plants that you should be aware of …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Rhodiola and ashwagandha are two adaptogenic herbs that are often compared due to their many similarities.

However, there are certain distinctions between these plants that you should be aware of before making a selection.

In this article, we’ll compare the differences between rhodiola vs. ashwagandha, as well as their similarities.

health benefits of rhodiola vs ashwagandha compared and contrasted

Rhodiola Benefits & Uses:

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that is recognized for its ability to increase mental focus and energy.

There are numerous other purported advantages of rhodiola, including improving attention, reducing tiredness, improving memory, and treating depression.

ashwagandha vs. rhodiola: rhodiola health benefits

1. May Improve Brain Function

Rhodiola has been shown to enhance learning and memory function in several studies.

A meta-analysis study showed that rhodiola improves learning and memory function.

According to this research, the mechanism of action for Rhodiola rosea’s impact on brain function is due to its antioxidant activity.

2. May Help With Depression

In addition to its mental stimulating effects, rhodiola has some promising research suggesting that it is one of the adaptogens that can help with depression.

A double-blind placebo-controlled study showed that ~1000mg of Rhodiola rosea extract daily increased mental well-being in patients with mild depression.

In the experimental group, overall depression, as well as insomnia and emotional instability, improved significantly following treatment, whereas the placebo group did not.

3. May Help With Stress Management

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb with stress-reducing qualities.

People who suffered from stress-related fatigue were the focus of a phase III clinical trial. The participants in the study were given 576mg of rhodiola extract per day. The researchers discovered that rhodiola has an anti-fatigue effect that improves mental performance, especially concentration.

You can learn more about the benefits of rhodiola here.

Ashwagandha Benefits & Uses:

Ashwagandha is a famous Ayurvedic herb with adaptogenic qualities.

This plant has been used in India as an aphrodisiac and tonic for millennia. It was also utilized to treat a variety of illnesses, including inflammation, psoriasis, bronchitis, asthma, ulcers, and insomnia.

It also is said to help with healthy aging.

According to recent studies, ashwagandha may help to relieve anxiety, enhance sleep quality, and promote stress resilience.

ashwagandha vs. rhodiola: ashwagandha health benefits

1. May Improve Stress Management

Ashwagandha has been found to have adaptogenic anti-stress effects, which means it can help with stress management.

In a study of stressed healthy individuals, the researchers discovered that ashwagandha helped to reduce perceived stress.

This study, as well as other research, suggests that ashwagandha may be the ideal herb to counteract the harmful effects of stress on our health.

2. May Help With Anxiety

Ashwagandha has been found in clinical trials to help with anxiety and overall mental health.

A human clinical trial showed that self-reported stress levels in study participants were reduced after taking 300mg of ashwagandha root extract daily.

Another study showed that ashwagandha extract was also observed to help reduce anxiety, as measured by various anxiety indexes.

3. May Help With Insomnia

According to clinical studies, ashwagandha may be an adaptogen that helps to improve sleep quality and reduce sleeplessness.

Researchers investigated the effect of ashwagandha on sleep and discovered that it significantly improved several sleep measures in those with poor sleep quality.

Click here to read our full article on the benefits of ashwagandha.

Rhodiola vs. Ashwagandha: Similarities & Differences

There are a couple of key considerations to keep in mind when comparing ashwagandha vs rhodiola.

Ashwagandha and rhodiola are similar in that they are both adaptogenic herbs. This means that they have the ability to help the body adapt to both physiological and psychological stress.

This is thought to be due to the fact that both herbs contain a high number of antioxidants, which can combat oxidative stress on cells.

Even though both herbs share similar adaptogenic effects, they differ in how they impact the body.

Rhodiola is commonly used as a nootropic to increase mental performance and energy levels. It is very stimulating, which is perfect for those that have low energy and need a boost.

Rhodiola also tends to have an energizing effect, so it is not recommended for those who suffer from insomnia or anxiety.

Ashwagandha is more of a calming, relaxing herb. It helps to nourish the body and build long-term mental, and physical, resilience.

Additionally, ashwagandha has a sedative-like effect that can improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety.

That said, ashwagandha doesn’t have the stimulating “pick me up” effect that rhodiola has.

Rhodiola vs. Ashwagandha: Can You Take Them Together?

Yes, you can take rhodiola and ashwagandha together.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that rhodiola is more of a stimulative, energizing herb, whereas ashwagandha gives more of a relaxed, focused calm.

If you plan on taking both of these herbs together, I recommend splitting them up.

For example, take your rhodiola in the morning as you are getting ready for your day. This will help to stimulate your brain and body and get you ready for your workday.

You could then ashwagandha supplement around bedtime (which would help to increase your sleep quality).

Rhodiola vs. Ashwagandha: Which is right for you?

So which herb is right for you, rhodiola or ashwagandha?

Rhodiola is more of a stimulating, anti-stress herb. It works to get the brain activated into a focused, productive zone. For some people, rhodiola may be too stimulating.

Ashwagandha on the other hand doesn’t have the same stimulating properties. That said, it does have the ability to provide a relaxed, focused state. It also has the ability to support deep sleep.

Rhodiola Might Be Right For You If:

•You work a mentally demanding job and coffee isn’t cutting it

•You need extra mental focus and attention to detail

•You feel the early stages of depression creeping into your life

Ashwagandha Might Be Right For You If:

•You tend to be overstimulated and need deep, relaxed focus

•You have anxious thoughts

•You have poor sleep quality

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

Rhodiola is a relatively safe plant to consume. There are no reported adverse interactions between herbal medications and other drugs.

Herbalist David Winston has stated that rhodiola should be avoided by people who have bipolar disorder.

Rhodiola can also negatively impact the sleep of some individuals due to its stimulating effect.

Ashwagandha root has a clean safety profile and is typically well-tolerated.

According to researchers, moderate doses of ashwagandha (around 300mg daily) do not appear to be associated with any major side effects or adverse reactions.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for an adaptogenic herb to support your body against stress, rhodiola and ashwagandha are two of the best.

As was noted in this article, the herb that is right for you depends on your individual needs.

Rhodiola is a stimulating adaptogen that can be great for those who feel the need to take life by the horns.

Ashwagandha on the other hand, while still an adaptogenic herb, is more of a calming herb. It’s great for individuals who are already focused and productive but just need that extra anti-stress support.

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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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