Rhodiola/Cordyceps-Based Herbal Supplement Promotes Endurance Training-Improved Body Composition But Not Oxidative Stress and Metabolic Biomarkers: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Study

Nutrients. 2019 Oct 3;11(10):2357. doi: 10.3390/nu11102357.


Rhodiola crenulata (R) and Cordyceps sinensis (C) are commonly used herbs that promote health in traditional Chinese medicine. These two herbs have also been shown to exhibit anti-inflammation and antioxidant functions. Regular endurance training reveals potent endurance capacity, body composition improvement, and metabolic-related biomarker benefits. However, it is not known whether the combination of Rhodiola crenulata and Cordyceps sinensis (RC) supplementation during endurance training provides additive health benefits. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of 8-week endurance training plus RC supplementation on body composition, oxidative stress, and metabolic biomarkers in young sedentary adults.

Methods: Fourteen young sedentary adults (8M/6F) participated in this double-blind randomized controlled study. Participants were assigned to exercise training with placebo groups (PLA, n = 7, 4M/3F; age: 21.4 ± 0.4 years) and exercise training with the RC group (RC, 20 mg/kg/day; n = 7, 4M/3F; age: 21.7 ± 0.4 years). Both groups received identical exercise training for eight weeks. The body composition, circulating oxidative stress, and blood metabolic biomarkers were measured before and after the 8-week intervention.

Results: Improvement in body composition profiles were significantly greater in the RC group (body weight: p = 0.044, BMI: p = 0.003, upper extremity fat mass: p = 0.032, lower extremity muscle mass: p = 0.029, trunk fat mass: p = 0.011) compared to the PLA group after training. The blood lipid profile and systemic oxidative stress makers (thiobarbituric reactive substanceand total antioxidant capacity) did not differ between groups. Although endurance training markedly improved endurance capacity and glycemic control ability (i.e., fast blood glucose, insulin, and HOMA index), there were no differences in these variables between treatments.

Conclusions: In this preliminary investigation, we demonstrated that an 8-week RC supplementation (20 mg/kg/day) faintly enhanced endurance training-induced positive adaptations in body composition in young sedentary individuals, whereas the blood lipid profile and systemic oxidative stress states were not altered after such intervention.

Keywords: Chinese herbs; body fat mass; maximal oxygen consumption; skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cordyceps / chemistry*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Endurance Training*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Placebos
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Rhodiola / chemistry*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Placebos
  • Plant Extracts