October 2013

Rhodiola Studied For Muscle Soreness in Marathon Runners

Rhodiola rosea may not improve muscle function or reduce muscle damage caused by exercise, according to a study.

Rhodiola grows in cold regions and at high altitudes in Europe and Asia, where its roots have traditionally been used to increase resistance to physical stress. While there are more than 200 species of rhodiola, Rhodiola rosea is considered preferable, because it contains rosavins. Supplements generally contain a minimum of 3 percent rosavins. Rhodiola is considered an adaptogen, which is an agent that is believed to normalize functioning and stimulate healing of cells. It has been used to prevent fatigue and enhance physical and mental performance. Rhodiola may also provide benefit in bladder cancer, lung disease, and exercise and mental performance, but more studies are needed to confirm these findings.

In a recent study, researchers set out to determine the impact of Rhodiola rosea on various post-exercise factors, including muscle damage, delayed muscle soreness, and inflammation. They recruited experienced marathon runners and assigned them to receive either 60 milligrams of Rhodiola rosea supplementation or a placebo daily for 30 days before, the day of, and seven days after running the marathon. The research team collected blood samples and assessed the participants' delayed-onset muscle soreness the day before, 15 minutes after, and 1.5 hours after the marathon, as well as the seven days after the marathon.

The researchers found that significant differences in marathon race performance were lacking between the runners who had receivedRhodiola rosea when compared to those given placebo. Muscle soreness and inflammation increased significantly after the marathon for all runners regardless of treatment type.

The researchers concluded that this dose of Rhodiola rosea, taken by mouth for 30 days before running a marathon appeared to lack impact on muscle function and muscle damage in experienced runners. More information is needed to confirm these findings.

Other integrative therapies such as hydroxymethyl butyrate and pomegranate have been studied for exercise recovery, with good scientific evidence to support their effectiveness.

For more information about Rhodiola rosea, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Shanely RA, Nieman DC, Zwetsloot KA, et al. Evaluation of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on skeletal muscle damage and inflammation in runners following a competitive marathon. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Sep 18. pii: S0889-1591(13)00459-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.09.005. 

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.