Rhodiola for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD-I, ADHD-PI)

Rhodiola is occasionally recommended for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD Inattentive, (ADD, ADHD-I, ADHD-PI).  This herb is also known as Golden Root and Siberian Ginseng though it is not in the Ginseng family at all. I have written about Rhodiola for Sluggish Cognitive Tempo in this post but have not really addressed the issue of whether Rhodiola can be used for ADHD Inattentive (ADHD-PI, ADHD-I).

Rhodiola, like Gingseng is an adaptogen. You will remember that adaptogens help our bodies cope and recover from stress. In China and Russia this herb is used to counter the effects of fatigue and to help athletes recover from extreme physical activities. It is also frequently used to help people who work long shifts without sleep such as soldiers and physicians deal with sleep deprivation and to help the ill recover from illness.

It is Rhodiola's anti-fatigue effects that make it especially useful for people with Sluggish Cognitive Tempo but recent studies have found Rhodiola to be very helpful for not only fatigue but also for depression, anxiety and memory.

Rhodiola, in research studies, has been found to act on an area of the brain knows as the hypo-pituitary axis or the HPA to regulate stress hormone levels and to improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression and it has also been found in studies to regulate neurotransmitter levels which is why it might prove helpful in improving the symptoms of ADHD-PI.

A review article published in the Journal Phytomedicine last year reported that Rhodiola had been found in studies to help anxiety, depression, fatigue, stress and cognition and that it did so through various brain enhancing mechanisms. I have included the abstract below.

The specific benefits that can be had from the use of Rhodiola in people with ADD, ADHD-I and ADHD-PI have not been studied. Like the Indian herbs Bacaopa Monieri, Ashwagandha and Shankhapushpi (Evolvulus alsinoides), Rhodiola has been used to treat ADHD symptoms in other countries but studies that establish the dose and benefits of these herbs have not been performed by doctors or scientist in the U.S.

As with all herbs and supplements, these products should not be taken if you are pregant or nursing and should only be used under the supervision of a licensed physician. Andrew Weil, MD, the well known Harvard trained physician and herbal specialist reports on his website that, "Studies of its medicinal applications have appeared in the scientific literature of Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and Iceland. Today in Russia, rhodiola is used as a tonic and remedy for fatigue, poor attention span, and decreased memory; it is also believed to make workers more productive. In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries it is used to increase the capacity for mental work and as a general strengthener."

The bottom line is that Rhodiola may prove useful for the treatment of the symptoms of ADHD Inattentive but no studies have confirmed this.  The usual dose of Rhodiola is between 100mg and 200mg per day. The active ingredients are Salidroside and Rosavin and herb specialist report that unless the herb has 1% salidroside it is not worth taking.


Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):481-93. Epub 2010 Apr 7.
Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy.
Panossian A, Wikman G, Sarris J.

Abstract
The aim of this review article was to summarize accumulated information related to chemical composition, pharmacological activity, traditional and official use of Rhodiola rosea L. in medicine. In total approximately 140 compounds were isolated from roots and rhizome - monoterpene alcohols and their glycosides, cyanogenic glycosides, aryl glycosides, phenylethanoids, phenylpropanoids and their glycosides, flavonoids, flavonlignans, proanthocyanidins and gallic acid derivatives. Studies on isolated organs, tissues, cells and enzymes have revealed that Rhodiola preparations exhibit adaptogenic effect including, neuroprotective, cardioprotectiv e, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic, life-span increasing effects and CNS stimulating activity. A number of clinical trials demonstrate that repeated administration of R. rosea extract SHR-5 exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance (particularly the ability to concentrate in healthy subjects), and reduces burnout in patients with fatigue syndrome. Encouraging results exist for the use of Rhodiola in mild to moderate depression, and generalized anxiety. Several mechanisms of action possibly contributing to the clinical effect have been identified for Rhodiola extracts. They include interactions with HPA-system (cortisol-reducing), protein kinases p-JNK, nitric oxide, and defense mechanism proteins (e.g. heat shock proteins Hsp 70 and FoxO/DAF-16). Lack of interaction with other drugs and adverse effects in the course of clinical trials make it potentially attractive for use as a safe medication. In conclusion, Rhodiola rosea has robust traditional and pharmacological evidence of use in fatigue, and emerging evidence supporting cognition andmood.

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