Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements that have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions.
These miracle substances are most commonly known for their ability to prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress on the body, which leads to decreased fatigue, improved performance, and better stress regulation. But, some adaptogens go above and beyond helping in other areas of your life as well.
This article is going to dive into the role adaptogens (mainly eleuthero and roseroot) play in improving cognition, well-being, and depression.
For a primer on adaptogens, check out one of my previous articles. It should get you up to speed on what adaptogens are, a little bit about their history, and it will provide you with information about adaptogen’s ability to decrease fatigue and combat stress.
Adaptogens and cognition
Cognition is just a fancy psychology word that means “to think”. We use our cognitive abilities when we do things we typically associate with using our brain – math, playing chess, reading a book – but there are also some subtler forms of thought – interpreting sensory input from various places in our body, orchestrating physical actions, and empathizing with others that we don’t typically think of as requiring conscious thought.
But they fall under the umbrella of cognition, too.
Two adaptogens, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea) are associated with increasing cognition. That is, they’re associated with being able to improve our ability to think.
Eleuthero is also known as Siberian ginseng. One study showed that 300mg of daily eleuthero supplementation for 8 weeks significantly improved cognitive function in an elderly population.
Roseroot has been more extensively studied for its ability to improve our ability to think: Four studies have linked roseroot supplementation with improved cognition.
In the first, 170mg of roseroot for two weeks was shown to improve performance on work-related tasks by approximately 20%. The participants in the study were physicians and the improvement in cognition observed in the study could be due to decreased fatigue.
The second study involved 82 people taking 200mg of rhodiola extract twice a day for four weeks. The participants in this study experienced increased social abilities and work function.
The third study examined students during exam time. The researchers tested the effect of 20 days of roseroot supplementation versus placebo on test scores in 40 students. They noticed taking roseroot improved test scores by 8.4% relative to placebo.
The fourth and final study examining the effects of roseroot on cognition looked at the effect of five days of supplementation (either 370mg or 555mg) on the capacity for mental work. This double-blind study of 121 participants showed that roseroot supplementation increased the capacity for mental work relative to placebo.
Adaptogens and well-being
Well-being is a measure that goes above and beyond the traditional definition of health.
It’s a term that incorporates the physical, the mental, and the social aspects of life to get an understanding of your feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction, accomplishment, and comfort.
It’s probably the most scientific measure we have of asking “how happy are you” in a philosophical sense.
Roseroot supplementation, the same adaptogen mentioned in the previous section, has been linked to improvements in measures of subjective well-being in two separate studies.
The first study I’m mentioning here is one of the same studies showing an improvement in cognition with roseroot supplementation: the study testing the effects of 20 days of roseroot supplementation in students during exam time.
The researchers conducting this study also included a measure of the general well-being of the participants and noted an increase relative to the placebo group.
The second study was also mentioned in the previous section: the study testing the effect of 5 days of roseroot supplementation in military cadets.
The researchers in this study also included a measure of well-being and, much like the other study, noticed an improvement in well-being with roseroot supplementation.
Adaptogens and depression
Depression is a medical illness that can creep its way into just about every aspect of your life. It negatively affects how you feel, think, and act.
It’s estimated that 1 in 15 adults suffer from depression and 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives.
The adaptogen roseroot has been linked to being able to decrease depression in one double-blind study.
The study, published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, tested the effects of 42 days of roseroot supplementation in patients diagnosed with depression.
They measured depression using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).
Roseroot supplementation improved scores on the HAMD rating scale by 30-35% and by 50% on the BDI.
How to take eleuthero and roseroot
Eleuthero can be found in supplements as root, stem, and leaf extracts. The dose in the study showing improvements in cognition was 300mg per day. So, if you want to experience cognitive benefits as a result of eleuthero, you should look for supplements with at least this much in them per serving.
The doses used in the studies involving roseroot ranged from 100mg to 680mg. To experience the benefits associated with roseroot on cognition, well-being, and depression, you need to take at least 100mg of roseroot per day.
Adaptogens have gained a decent respect for their ability to help manage stress, fatigue, and energy.
As research continues to develop, we learn more about their other functions.
Benefits of eleuthero and roseroot beyond stress, fatigue, and energy have solid scientific backing. Do you supplement with either of these? What has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments below!
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