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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Ashwagandha vs. Rhodiola: Choosing What's Right for You

Mar 02, 2021 08:00AM ● By Alina Hornfeldt

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Adaptogens have been a popular ingredient in the supplement world for quite some time. Recently they have been popping up in drinks, foods and blends. The two most popular are ashwagandha and rhodiola. Let us take a look at these two so you can decide if one or the other best suits your needs.

Ashwagandha is by far the most commonly known of the adaptogens. Traditionally used in Ayurveda for thousands of years, it can be found growing in Africa and southern China. Adaptogens are so named because of their unique ability to adapt to the harsh and stressful growing environments they are found in the wild. This, in turn, may help your body adapt to life’s stress as well. Ashwagandha is found to lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone that left unchecked can burden your adrenals and lead to fatigue and irritability. High cortisol is also associated with weight gain and high blood pressure. A short burst of cortisol is healthy and needed, but when your levels are consistently high, adaptogens like ashwagandha can assist in bringing them down to a healthy level. The area of most study of ashwagandha has focused on its anti-depression and anti-anxiety effects. In one study, those under chronic stress who took ashwagandha reported a 60 percent decrease in symptoms, insomnia included. High in antioxidants, ashwagandha is a natural anti-inflammatory and can assist in memory and focus. Studies have shown that people who take ashwagandha have better memory and concentration.

Rhodiola is a close second in the adaptogens for popularity. It is found in Northern Europe and Asia, including high in the mountains. It has been popular for centuries in Russian, Korean and Chinese herbal medicine traditions. Rhodiola has been studied for its use in reducing the symptoms of depression and is different from ashwagandha in that researchers believe that rhodiola can balance the neurotransmitters in our brain, similar to how antidepressant medications work. Reports of participants in clinical trials experiencing a reduction of depression and insomnia and an increase in self-esteem are very hopeful for those looking to avoid traditional pharmaceutical options. Part of this may be due to rhodiola’s ability to improve mental energy. Even those with chronic fatigue syndrome have reported positive quality-of-life effects and an uptick in their mood and energy levels—not only mental energy but also physical energy improvements. Consider taking rhodiola in the morning versus the evening due to its energizing effect.

While both ashwagandha and rhodiola are in the adaptogen family, ashwagandha is used more as a relaxing, anti-stress supplement and rhodiola as an energizing and engaging supplement. Both are available as a powder, capsules, tablets or liquid extract. Both are also more frequently being included in functional foods and beverages. If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder, low blood pressure, diabetes, are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your doctor before taking adaptogens or any new supplement.

Alina Hornfeldt is the marketing manager at Mastel’s Health Foods. The staff at Mastel’s is experienced, deeply knowledgeable and available to help you find those supplements that best suit your needs. Mastel’s is located at 1526 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul. For more information, call 651-690-1692 or visit 


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