Background: Rhodiola rosea (R. rosea) is grown at high altitudes and northern latitudes. Due to its purported adaptogenic properties, it has been studied for its performance-enhancing capabilities in healthy populations and its therapeutic properties in a number of clinical populations. To systematically review evidence of efficacy and safety of R. rosea for physical and mental fatigue.
Methods: Six electronic databases were searched to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs), evaluating efficacy and safety of R. rosea for physical and mental fatigue. Two reviewers independently screened the identified literature, extracted data and assessed risk of bias for included studies.
Results: Of 206 articles identified in the search, 11 met inclusion criteria for this review. Ten were described as RCTs and one as a CCT. Two of six trials examining physical fatigue in healthy populations report R. rosea to be effective as did three of five RCTs evaluating R. rosea for mental fatigue. All of the included studies exhibit either a high risk of bias or have reporting flaws that hinder assessment of their true validity (unclear risk of bias).
Conclusion: Research regarding R. rosea efficacy is contradictory. While some evidence suggests that the herb may be helpful for enhancing physical performance and alleviating mental fatigue, methodological flaws limit accurate assessment of efficacy. A rigorously-designed well reported RCT that minimizes bias is needed to determine true efficacy of R. rosea for fatigue.