I was just popping my morning regimen of pre-breakfast vitamins and realized that although these herbs and nutrients are (and have been) such a big part of my healing process, I haven't made them a big enough part of my contributions here. Kinda skipped past the 'body' part of healing and went right into the mind and emotions, which just won't work.
So, without further delay, let's talk about my very most favorite plant of the moment, Rhodiola.
Rhodiola rosea, also called Arctic or Golden Root, is generally placed in a class of plants and fungi affectionately named 'adaptogens'. These are the great healers; the gifts to mankind that the plant community and earth have provided which are incredibly essential to surviving well during times of stress and pressure.
Times like... now.
These plants tend to grow in the most inhospitable areas of the earth: high deserts, cold mountains, dry and barren land. And in order to survive there, they develop particular compounds in their physical form which convey a resistance to the environmental stressors. And it just so happens that, lucky for us, when we consume these compounds, we are also gifted with the same experience.
These plant chemicals help to regulate our immune, physiological and neurological responses to stress, allowing us to survive not only rough environmental/weather challenges, but also to adapt and adjust our often neurotic mental habits and crazy social/political climates as well.
Rhodiola is the supreme queen of this class of plants, in my humble opinion. Indigenous to the mountainous regions of Siberia and Northern Europe, it has been used for thousands of years to help people survive cold winters and high altitudes. Some think that it has been kept a little bit secret from the rest of the world for the last 50 years, utilized by the Russian population to improve their physical stamina in both the Olympic games and their cosmonaut program (I can't really blame them if they did - this plant is incredible), but awareness of this incredible healer is now spreading, and research done around the world is confirming what their culture has known for centuries.
Here are four reasons why I think you would benefit from taking Rhodiola; just a brief sampling of the many wonderful effects it can have in your body:
1. Amps up your energy:
Rhodiola increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of our red blood cells, making it particularly effective at increasing energy, vitality and stamina during times of stress. As most of us don't breathe fully when we're in a panicked state or exercising hard, Rhodiola can offset this inevitable increase in carbon dioxide and lactic acid/decrease in oxygen, to make us feel stronger and calmer even when life is crazy. I’ve found this to be particularly good in women who are consistently battling low-grade anemia, as well as for older people who are lagging in energy.
2. Reduces the amount of stress your body (and mind) experience when SHTF:
Rhodiola has a calming effect on our body and mental state because of an ability to reduce cortisol, one of our major stress hormones. While some cortisol is absolutely necessary to live -- this is the hormone that is released from your adrenal glands in a cyclic manner during the day or during times of stress -- most of us exist in a state of nearly constant exposure to this compound, resulting in lowered blood sugar response, abdominal weight gain, decreased memory, reduced cellular energy production, and diminished immunity. Through reducing cortisol and balancing the endocrine system (your hypothalamus, who talks to the rest of the body to let it know when to release what, your pituitary, who is the translator for the hypothalamus, and your adrenals, specifically), rhodiola helps to not only reduce this constant release of cortisol, but also to balance and heal the whole communication network more long term. This results in, predictably, improved memory and focus, better energy levels, increased resistance to sickness, and significantly better insulin response. Also helps with binge eating (which often happens because of excess cortisol)!
3. Helps you burn belly fat (oh yes… we all love that one!)
So, not only does Rhodiola reduce the cortisol and blood sugar aspect of the belly fat equation, but it also turns on an enzyme called 'hormone-sensitive lipase', a substance which allows your body to access and utilize the fat stored in abdominal cells. This aids your body in losing weight, not because it's deprived or over-exercising, but because it is balanced and feels loved. Like Grover on Sesame Street says: “ehverybahdee wants to feel loved, right?” Your body is no exception, friends. In the absence of love towards our physical form, plants like Rhodiola can temporarily substitute and give us a sense of gratitude for all our bodies do.
4. Makes you smart. Like really, really smart.
From the mental side of things, Rhodiola also increases the sensitivity of your neurons (them thinkin’cells in your brain) to the presence of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters involved in focus, memory, pleasure, mood, and a whole bunch of other nice feelings. This plant has been used as an extremely effective alternative to antidepressants, and can be a welcome mental boost for just about anyone (unless you're experiencing symptoms of bipolar mania. Not a good idea). As an added bonus, the increase in dopamine sensitivity increases your enjoyment of food, sex, and other good things, as well as reducing carbohydrate cravings and addictions. Rhodiola as an alternative to ADHD pharmaceutical drugs makes complete sense, as they're both working on the same neurological pathways. And thankfully, unlike prescription medication, Rhodiola won't blow out your kidneys and liver, stagnate your growth, or give your heart palpitations.
If you're going to give this lovely herb a try, just make sure to get a supplement that is guaranteed Siberian-grown. Because the plants need exposure to stress in order to develop these compounds (called Rosavins, if you're interested), the ones that are grown in more temperate or hospitable places won't have any effect on our bodies. I'm particularly fond of the New Chapter brand, and tend to recommend people to take the 300 mg capsule once a day in the morning to start.
There's no potential for addiction or dependency, and eventually, hopefully, you won't need to take the Rhodiola because it will have, not only balanced your physical state, but given you the opportunity to work on your mental and emotional responses to the world around you, creating new, healthy, neurological pathways. As I mentioned before, if you've got any kind of mania going on or are on an MAOI, don't take this. People with high blood pressure don't benefit from it either.
The plant world is incredible, and is forever supplying us with what we need in order to, not only survive, but thrive on this planet. Taken as an opportunity to both heal yourself and to cultivate appreciation for the world around you, supplementing with Rhodiola can change big things.
Doo eet. Truly, you'll be glad you did.