Basic PLUS Author | 21 Articles Joined: August 13, 2008

Literally, almost a hundred or so research papers or medical reviews come across my desk every couple of days. I guess you can say I collect them. See, whenever I meet someone in the medical field, I always make sure I leave my e-mail address with them just in case they come across any information regarding nutraceuticals. I like to read everything. As they say, knowledge is power.

Thus, rarely do I get excited about an herbal product. It takes a lot to earn my trust, let alone my hard-earned money. There has to be a substantial amount of evidence supporting the herbal before I’d even think twice about testing it. There’s too much rift-raft in the dietary supplement industry. I was fooled long ago during my “believe every miracle cure a marketer throws at me” days. I’m much wiser now. I can cut through the BS and get right down to the good stuff.

I must admit though, I’m really excited about this first ingredient in my “stress less for poker success” formula. The research in not only animals but also humans is very convincing. The science, the feedback, everything is very sound. All I can say is “I’m a believer.”

Rhodiola Rosea

I just want to give you a quick overview about this ingredient. These are things you need to know so you can best evaluate whether it can benefit your game. I’ll then tell you why I love this ingredient for poker players.


Rhodiola Rosea, a plant, is typically found in the mountain regions throughout Europe and Asia. It’s been used for years in traditional Asian and Eastern European medicine. In addition, it’s been studied for over 35 years in Russia and Scandanavia, with a large majority of the research not yet translated. Now remember, the Russians were studying and using anabolic steroids well before the U.S. even knew what testosterone was. When it comes to performance enhancing supplements, Russians are usually near the forefront of innovation.

Mechanism of action

I want you to try something. Stop reading this, put on your running shoes, and go outside. Yes, do it. It’ll make this article mean so much more. Now run as far as you can until you feel like you’re going to die. Stop, and I want you to do some complex arithmetic. How about the first ten U.S. presidents? Ok, something a little easier. How about your first, middle, and last name? Tough, isn’t it? That’s what stress can do to your mind. Now continue reading.

Rhodiola Rosea is classified as an adaptogen, due to its ability to increase resistance to a host of chemical, biological, and physiological stressors. In layman’s terms, it protects you from all kinds of stress in a variety of ways. Adaptogens help keep the body in a state of healthy balance. When there’s too much stress, it helps counteract it. When there’s too little stress, it helps the body increase its stress response.

Just a few of the suggested ways it works include:

Its ability to stop the enzymes responsible for the destruction of norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine, along with helping in the transport of those neurotransmitters. All three neurotransmitters are vital to mental performance. Think caffeine or stimulants when you hear the words norepinephrine and epinephrine.

Its ability to help minimize the loss of norepinephrine and epinephrine from the adrenal gland during times of acute stress. This is particularly important since one of the most influential doctors in the U.S. stated that there’s an adrenal fatigue epidemic in the U.S. Any help your adrenal gland can get is extremely beneficial to your health.

Its ability to induce opiod peptide biosynthesis, along with activating peripheral and central opiod receptors. Yes, you heard me right. I said opiod.

Here’s a quick analogy that helps when trying to figure out exactly what Rhodiola Rosea does. Have you every worked out after a long break and got sore as all hell? Then, after a few weeks of working out, even though you are doing the exact same routine as you did when you got sore the first time, you don’t even feel like you’re breaking a sweat. That’s adaptation. Rhodiola Rosea does almost the exact same thing, but its effects are more mental as opposed to physical. It gives your body that extra help it needs to fight intense stress. It readies the defenses even before you experience the stress.


Because it helps keep the body in a healthy balance, you’ll get the most benefit from a mid-range dosage, even though some newer studies are showing effectiveness in treating depression and general anxiety disorder with higher dosages. Typically, you’ll want to stay in the dosing range of 100-170mg extract standardized to 3.6% rosavin. Some of the literature suggests doses lower and higher than that range are equally ineffective. The most important aspect to pay attention to is the percentage of rosavin.

Because Rhodiola rosea is a plant, there are numerous compounds that have shown pharmacological effects within the plant. Thus, to help standardize the dosage, the percentage of rosavin was chosen because it’s almost unique to this particular species of Rhodiola. Think of it as the proof of alcohol. I’m sure you and I both know what that means.

Also, if you are using Rhodiola Rosea for acute stressful situations, typically you’ll want to use 3 times the daily dosage. Unlike most other adaptogens, Rhodiola Rosea has been shown to be effective in acute stressful situations, not just during chronic stress.

It’s also best to cycle your usage of Rhodiola Rosea. It’s been used up to four months at a time. I recommend using it during times of intense stress, such as during poker tournaments that may end up being all-nighters, etc. I personally don’t use it all the time. I like to rely on it when I’m working on major presentations or when I know I’ll have a couple weeks of hell. It’s been a lifesaver. So far, the only side effects noticed were irritability and insomnia. I question whether the dosage was too high or the patients even really needed it.

Why I like it.

It doesn’t just work centrally like most other adaptogens. It also works peripherally. Thus, it’s great to stack with other adaptogens. Synergy at its finest.

It just doesn’t work during periods of prolonged stress. It also works for acute stressful situations. Very convenient.

The animal studies have provided excellent evidence. The human studies have been even better. It’s been studied on physicians, students, and healthy 19-21 year-olds. If that wasn’t enough, the large majority of the research from Russia and Scandanavia hasn’t even been translated yet. Thus, we’re just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg.

Within the last couple of years, it’s even been studied to treat general anxiety disorder and depression. Very few herbal supplements actually make it to “disease studies.” This is equivalent to the stage 2 and 3 clinical trials prescription medications are tested in. The amazing part was both studies showed beneficial effects for both medical conditions.

It helps to balance the body. It doesn’t take the body out of its natural state. Side effects are minimal.

Why do I LOVE it for poker players?

I don’t care how much you love poker, it’s stressful. No one enjoys losing money. Tell me if some of these benefits wouldn’t improve your game: stimulation of the nervous system, alleviating depression, minimizing mental and physical fatigue, improving work performance, and improving sleep difficulties. Just one of those effects will probably have quite an impact on your poker game. Animal studies have even suggested some cognitive enhancing effects. Now that’s what I consider a performance enhancing supplement for the poker world.

If you play poker regularly, you probably have a sporadic lifestyle. You can’t plan when you’re going to play in tournaments or pick-up games. They sometimes appear out of nowhere. Rhodiola rosea works during times of acute stress and periods of prolonged stress. Did you say you need instant stress relief during this intense tournament? Try Rhodiola Rosea. Wait, did you say you needed some stress relief during this month long run of bad cards? Try Rhodiola Rosea. It’s very, very convenient.

The feel-good effects of dopamine, the energy of norepinephrine and epinephrine, the antidepressive feelings of serotonin, and the euphoria of opiods. All balanced by Rhodiola Rosea. Now that’s good stuff.

I think I’ve rambled on enough about my top ingredient for the stress less for success formula. Stress can do some nasty things to the mind. If it’s hurting your poker game, you need this formula. If you’re losing sleep from poker, you need this formula. It’s worked for me and I’m sure it will work for you.

Clinical Studies

Here a couple Rhodiola rosea studies that I referred to in the previous article. I just want to get them up tonight so you can read them. I’ll go into a little more detail about them tomorrow.

1) A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen.

Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, Mironova IA, Neumoin VV.
Volgograd Medical Academy, Russia.

The objective was to investigate the stimulating and normalizing effect of the adaptogen Rhodiola rosea extract SHR-5 in foreign students during a stressful examination period. The study was performed as a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled with low repeated dose regime. The study drug and the placebo were taken for 20 days by the students during an examination period. The physical and mental performance were assessed before and after the period, based on objective as well as on subjective evaluation. The most significant improvement in the SHR-5 group was seen in physical fitness, mental fatigue and neuro-motoric tests (p Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue–a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty.

Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, Gabrielian E, Wikman G, Wagner H.
Department of Neurology, Armenian State Medical University, Yerevan.

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of repeated low-dose treatment with a standardized extract SHR/5 of rhizome Rhodiola rosea L, (RRE) on fatigue during night duty among a group of 56 young, healthy physicians. The effect was measured as total mental performance calculated as Fatigue Index. The tests chosen reflect an overall level of mental fatigue, involving complex perceptive and cognitive cerebral functions, such as associative thinking, short-term memory, calculation and ability of concentration, and speed of audio-visual perception. These parameters were tested before and after night duty during three periods of two weeks each: a) a test period of one RRE/placebo tablet daily, b) a washout period and c) a third period of one placebo/RRE tablet daily, in a double-blind cross-over trial. The perceptive and cognitive cerebral functions mentioned above were investigated using 5 different tests. A statistically significant improvement in these tests was observed in the treatment group (RRE) during the first two weeks period. No side-effects were reported for either treatment noted. These results suggest that RRE can reduce general fatigue under certain stressful conditions.

3) A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Bystritsky A, Kerwin L, Feusner JD.

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

BACKGROUND: Rhodiola rosea is an herbal supplement that many in the general population in Russia and elsewhere in the world have used for decades to alleviate everyday anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Whether R. rosea is effective in reducing similar symptoms in clinical samples is unknown. The goal of this pilot study was to evaluate whether R. rosea is effective in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). METHOD: Ten (10) participants with a DSM-IV diagnosis of GAD, recruited from the UCLA Anxiety Disorders Program and between the ages of 34 and 55, were enrolled in this study from November 2005 to May 2006. Participants received a total daily dose of 340 mg of R. rosea extract for 10 weeks. Assessments included the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS), the Four-Dimensional Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Clinical Global Impressions of Severity/Improvement Scale. RESULTS: Individuals treated with R. rosea showed significant decreases in mean HARS scores at endpoint (t=3.27, p=0.01). Adverse events were generally mild or moderate in severity, the most common being dizziness and dry mouth. CONCLUSIONS: Significant improvement in GAD symptoms was found with R. rosea, with a reduction in HARS scores similar to that found in clinical trials. These preliminary findings warrant further exploration of treatment with R. rosea in clinical samples.

4) Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

Darbinyan V, Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, Malmström C, Panossian A.
Department of Neurology, Armenian State Medical University, Yerevan, Armenia.

The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of standardized extract SHR-5 of rhizomes of Rhodiola rosea L. in patients suffering from a current episode of mild/moderate depression. The phase III clinical trial was carried out as a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study with parallel groups over 6 weeks. Participants, males and females aged 18-70 years, were selected according to DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for depression, the severity of which was determined by scores gained in Beck Depression Inventory and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) questionnaires. Patients with initial HAMD scores between 21 and 31 were randomized into three groups, one of which (group A: 31 patients) received two tablets daily of SHR-5 (340 mg/day), a second (group B: 29 patients) received two tablets twice per day of SHR-5 (680 mg/day), and a third (group C: 29 patients) received two placebo tablets daily. The efficacy of SHR-5 extract with respect to depressive complaints was assessed on days 0 and 42 of the study period from total and specific subgroup HAMD scores. For individuals in groups A and B, overall depression, together with insomnia, emotional instability and somatization, but not self-esteem, improved significantly following medication, whilst the placebo group did not show such improvements. No serious side-effects were reported in any of the groups A-C. It is concluded that the standardized extract SHR-5 shows anti-depressive potency in patients with mild to moderate depression when administered in dosages of either 340 or 680 mg/day over a 6-week period.

5) Efficacy and tolerability of a Rhodiola rosea extract in adults with physical and cognitive deficiencies.

Fintelmann V, Gruenwald J.
Carl Gustav Carus Akademie Hamburg e. V., Hamburg, Germany.

During a 12-wk drug monitoring study, the efficacy and safety of a Rhodiola rosea extract given in combination with vitamins and minerals (vigodana(R)) were tested in 120 adults (83 women and 37 men, ages 50-89 y) with physical and cognitive deficiencies. Two different dosage regimens were chosen. One group of 60 patients (group 1) took 2 capsules orally in the morning after breakfast, and the other group (group 2) took 1 capsule after breakfast and 1 after lunch. Three medical examinations were performed during the course of the study (at baseline, after 6 wk, and after 12 wk). The evaluated symptoms were divided into physical disturbances such as exhaustion, decreased motivation, daytime sleepiness, decreased libido, sleep disturbances, and cognitive complaints (eg, concentration deficiencies, forgetfulness, decreased memory, susceptibility to stress, irritability). A statistically highly significant improvement (PA randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work.

Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, Vol’skij VB, Korovin YP, Khristich MP, Roslyakova NA, Wikman G.
Centre of Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspection of the R.F. Ministry of Health, Moscow, Russia.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical study with an extra non-treatment group was performed to measure the effect of a single dose of standardized SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract on capacity for mental work against a background of fatigue and stress. An additional objective was to investigate a possible difference between two doses, one dose being chosen as the standard mean dose in accordance with well-established medicinal use as a psychostimulant/adaptogen, the other dose being 50% higher. Some physiological parameters, e.g. pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, were also measured. The study was carried out on a highly uniform population comprising 161 cadets aged from 19 to 21 years. All groups were found to have very similar initial data, with no significant difference with regard to any parameter. The study showed a pronounced antifatigue effect reflected in an antifatigue index defined as a ratio called AFI. The verum groups had AFI mean values of 1.0385 and 1.0195, 2 and 3 capsules respectively, whilst the figure for the placebo group was 0.9046. This was statistically highly significant (p My Opinion

As always, I’d just like to add my two cents about some of the trials I posted on my previous entry. I’ll keep it short.

Study 1: the students

One of the few slights I have against this study is the number of participants, 40. In the prescription drug world, I’m used to seeing at least several hundred participants, usually several thousand. However, that’s an extremely expensive and long process. It’d be hard for any natural product to get that kind of funding. Like I said before, without patents, there’s no money in proving natural products work.

The good news is though that the study looked at several different aspects of mental well-being through objective and subjective tests. Rhodiola rosea improved physical fitness, psychomotor function, mental performance, and general well-being as well as reducing mental fatigue, sleep requirements, and abnormal sleeping habits. Subjects also said they were in a better mood as well as being more motivated to study. Also, the students who used Rhodiola rosea had an 18% higher average score than the control group. However, because of the small size, that last note should be taken with caution.

The most important aspect of this trial is the subjects themselves. All of the students were medical students. Thus, they know what the placebo-effect is (basically meaning the benefit isn’t necessarily from the treatment itself, but it’s from your mind). Being trained to detect and minimize it, the results were still positively significant for Rhodiola rosea. In addition, traditional U.S. medicine typically frowns upon natural products. Thus, if anything, the students would be biased against Rhodiola rosea.

It was a small study, but I was very impressed with the results. Taking into the account of all the positive benefits it showed and who the subjects were, I’d overlook the small sample size.

Study 2 – healthy physicians

I take great joy in proving that natural supplements do have their place in traditional medicine. Thus, considering this study was done on physicians, and it showed statistically significant improvements, I almost cried when I read this study.

Once again, the slight against this study is the small sample size, 56. However, because it was studied on physicians, I have to overlook that. Trust me, most physicians are almost vehemently against using natural products. I’ve spent many hours on the phone convincing physicians that patients will get the same benefit from consuming fish oil capsules as they would the prescription drug Lovaza (which is basically pharmaceutical grade fish oil) without the added expense. You would not believe how brainwashed some of these physicians are by drug companies.

Once again, this study looked at several different parameters including speed of visual and auditory perception, attention capacity, and short-term memory, and then used the results to calculate a Fatigue Index. Again, Rhodiola rosea showed statistically significant improvement. After the initial two week test, the authors then did a 2 week wash-out period and retested the physicians. As expected, the tests returned to baseline further supporting the effects of Rhodiola rosea.

However, the one knock is after the two week washout period, the authors had another two week test with Rhodiola rosea. This time it didn’t offset the decline in mental performance. I have yet to determine a reason as to why. I’m still working on it.

Once again, I feel the small sample size is overshadowed by the subjects and the results. In my opinion, these two studies were great for poker players. Physicians, especially interns, are put under a great deal of mental and physical stress much like poker players. They have poor sleep habits, their minds are constantly working, their juggling multiple situations, and the stress from the head physicians is unbelievable. If there’s one category of people that are like poker players, physicians would be as close as you can get.

Study 3 and 4 – GAD and depression

These studies pretty much speak for themselves. In both studies, patients were clinically diagnosed with depression or general anxiety disorder. The dosages were higher than in the other studies. They showed improvement in both conditions. The downside: they also both had small sample sizes. I predict that these studies are going to lead to larger studies done in both of these populations.
The most important thing to take away from these studies: the small amount of side effects associated with those high doses (dry mouth and dizziness). Very impressive. Very safe.

Study 5 –

There were actually several good things that came out of this study. First, it suggested that taking one dose is better than splitting your doses in half and taking them twice daily. Secondly, not only did the patients say Rhodiola rosea worked (80% of them), but so did 81% of the physicians. Once again, it brought a tear to my eye. Finally, the study showed a significant improvement in not only physical deficiencies, but also cognitive deficiencies, which further supports Rhodiol rosea’s non-specific anti-stress actions.

Downsides: Small sample size, 120. It also wasn’t a double-blind placebo controlled trial, the gold-standard in medicine. It basically monitored the patients. However, the 80% success rate is hard to ignore.

Study 6 – cadet study

Once again, it suffers from a small sample size, 161. However, they were young and healthy 19-21 year-old cadets. It always makes a study that much stronger when it shows a benefit in young, healthy adults. It makes it easier to extrapolate the data to the majority of the population.

Once again, the authors calculated an anti-fatigue index. Treatment of Rhodiola rosea resulted in over a 10% reduction, which was statistically highly significant. Also, it showed a trend toward more benefits with the lower dosage, further supporting the balance behind Rhodiola rosea.

I really do love all of these studies. Even taking into account the small sample sizes, I still have to think they highly favor Rhodiola rosea. I feel these results can easily be extrapolated into the poker community. For pete’s sake, these studies were done on physicians, medical students, and young cadets. What better models than these for poker players?

Like I said before, I get really excited by very few natural supplements, may be one of out every 100-200 that I come across. Rhodiola rosea is at the top of my list. I recommend it to all of my athletes, poker players, physicians, pharmacists, and other professionals I consult for. I really believe in this supplement. The science supports it. The clinical studies support it. Most importantly, the real-world feedback supports it. Try it out. See for yourself. Remember, give it a couple weeks, and find the right dose for you.

If you do happen to use it, I’d love to hear some feedback, negative or positive. I’m particularly looking for what dosage worked best for you. Good-luck and may you get the cards you need.

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