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Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola – Which One Should You Take?

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Both Ashwagandha and Rhodiola have a lot to offer and I’m a huge fan of them both. But since they’re so similar in many ways, it might be hard for some people to decide between them.

Well if that’s you, you’ve come to the right place.

I started this Supplement Comparison Guide for that exact reason. In each article, I take 2 types of supplement and put them to face-to-face on benefits, cost, side effects and much more to help you choose which one to use.

In this post, we’ll take a look at Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola.

Let’s get started.

What is Ashwagandha?

ashwagandha plant

Ashwagandha (Withania Sommnifera) has been used for many thousand years for a range of health conditions.

In the ancient Sanskrit language, Ashwagandha roughly translates to “the smell of a horse”, suggesting it can give you the strength of a stallion.

(And some say Ashwagandha root does in fact smell like horse sweat.)

Native to India, Ashwagandha belongs to the family of plants known as the Nightshades, which includes other popular vegetables like potatoes and eggplants.

Ashwagandha is loved by many for its ability to help you feel calm, strong and vitalized.

What is Rhodiola?

Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea) is an adaptogenic herb that’s been used throughout history for its wide range of health benefits.

Grown in many different countries such as Iceland, Sweden and France, Rhodiola was reportedly used by the Vikings to boost physical and mental endurance.

Today, many people supplement with Rhodiola thanks to its awesome health benefits.

Benefits

Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels

It’s a sad fact that nowadays, many people have less-than-ideal testosterone levels.

This can be attributed to many reasons, such as:

  • High sugar intake
  • Sleep deprivation
  • The rise of veganism

But low testosterone levels are no laughing matter…

Research suggests that low T levels can contribute to depression in ageing men.

(And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.)

Well, the good news is that Ashwagandha may help boost your testosterone levels.

A study of 75 males showed that Ashwagandha increased many healthy compounds in their semen, as well as their seminal testosterone levels.

Ashwagandha may lower blood sugar levels

High blood sugar levels are toxic, so your body responds with a massive insulin spike which results in your blood sugar levels crashing.

This huge decrease in blood sugar levels makes you feel drowsy, lethargic and low on energy.

So, the key to stable energy levels is to manage your blood sugar levels.

And this is where Ashwagandha enters the picture.

A study of 12 subjects investigated how Ashwagandha affected their blood sugar levels.

After just 1 month of using Ashwagandha, their blood sugar was lowered by amounts comparable to that of blood sugar lowering medication.

Ashwagandha may boost muscle size and strength

Those ancient Indians were really onto something when giving Ashwagandha its name.

Because according to research, Ashwagandha does give you “the strength of a stallion.”

(Well maybe not exactly, but you know where I’m coming from…)

A study of 57 participants had some take 600mg of Ashwagandha and the rest take a placebo daily.

At the end of the study, the Ashwagandha users had greater increases in muscle size, strength, fat loss and testosterone levels than the placebo takers.

(Related reading: Best Supplements For Bulking)

Ashwagandha may lower anxiety

With over 40 million adult sufferers, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the US.

Research shows that Ashwagandha may be helpful to anxiety sufferers.

One study had some participants take 600mg of Ashwagandha and others take a placebo each day for a total of 2 months.

Compared to those who took the placebo, the Ashwagandha takers had a significant reduction in scores on the “stress test”.

Another study compared anxiety levels in participants taking either Ashwagandha or a placebo.

After 6 weeks, 88% of the Ashwagandha takers reported less anxiety.

Promising stuff, huh?

(Related reading: Do Cold Showers Reduce Anxiety?)

Benefits of Rhodiola

Rhodiola may help fight fatigue

There are many different factors which can contribute to fatigue, including stress, a poor diet and sleep loss.

Thanks to its adaptogenic properties, Rhodiola may help reduce fatigue.

A study of 60 fatigue sufferers had some of them take either 576mg of Rhodiola or a placebo each day.

After 4 weeks, Rhodiola had a positive effect on the participants’ fatigue levels compared to the placebo.

Another 8-week study of 100 people with chronic fatigue had the subjects take 400mg of Rhodiola each day.

The results showed that the subjects experienced significant improvements in mood, fatigue, concentration and quality of life.

Rhodiola may help boost brain function

Many people like to use Rhodiola as a nootropic.

(Nootropic is just a fancy way of saying “smart drug” FYI.)

A study of 56 physicians working night shifts had the subjects take either 170mg of Rhodiola or a placebo every day for 2 weeks.

At the end of the study, those who took Rhodiola had less mental fatigue and improved performance compared to the placebo takers.

In another study, students who supplemented with Rhodiola for 20 days experienced more motivation, better sleep and less mental fatigue.

Rhodiola may boost exercise performance

Few people are aware of Rhodiola’s performance enhancing effects.

In one study, participants were given either 200mg of Rhodiola or a placebo 2 hours before a cycling test.

The Rhodiola users were able to exercise 24 seconds longer on average than the placebo users.

Another study had participants take either Rhodiola or a placebo before a 6-mile simulated cycle race.

The results showed that the Rhodiola takers finished the race much faster than the placebo takers.

Rhodiola may lower stress

Rhodiola works as an adaptogen, meaning it helps boost your body’s resistance to stress.

A 4-week study had subjects with stress take 400mg of daily Rhodiola.

After only 3 days, the subjects had improvements in stress-related symptoms like fatigue, anxiety and exhaustion.  

Another study of 118 people investigated how Rhodiola affects stress-related burnout.

By the end of the study, the Rhodiola takers reported improved factors, including stress and depression.

Cost

Ashwagandha Cost

Ashwagandha is generally sold as a liquid extract or in tablets.

Standard prices for these are:

  • Tablets: $18 for 100
  • Liquid extract: $17 for 2 Oz

Rhodiola Cost

Rhodiola is typically sold in capsules. For a medium-priced supplement, you can expect to pay around $18 for 60 capsules.

Side Effects

Ashwagandha Side Effects

Ashwagandha is well-tolerated by most people, although mild side effects such as headaches, sleepiness and stomach upset have been reported by some people.

And since Ashwagandha can lower your blood sugar levels, please consult a doctor before taking it if you’re using any medication which can affect your blood sugar.

I really can’t stress this enough.

The following people should NOT take Ashwagandha:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with stomach ulcers
  • Those with high/low blood pressure
  • People who’re allergic to Nightshade plants, i.e. Potatoes, Tomatoes, etc.
  • People with autoimmune conditions, i.e. Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.

Rhodiola Side Effects

Like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola is generally considered safe but some people have reported mild side effects like dizziness, headaches and drowsiness.

Also, those who are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription MAOIs should not take Rhodiola.

Recommendations

My Ashwagandha Recommendation: NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha

NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha

Click to see on Amazon

Overview

High-quality, high-strength and reasonably priced.

NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha is a solid all-rounder.

What I like about it

A great feature of this Ashwagandha is that it’s mixed with black pepper extract.

This makes the Ashwagandha more absorbable, making it more effective than other supplements out there.

It’s also pleasing to see 1000s of amazing reviews, which shows that lots of others are seeing great results from using it.

And to put the cherry on the cake, NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha contains only organic, natural ingredients, so you can take it with the peace of mind of no nasty artificial ingredients.

Potential Drawbacks

Although each bottle contains 90 capsules, the daily recommended serving size is 3 capsules meaning each bottle will only last you a month.

Apart from that, there’s not much wrong with this supplement.

Check price and read more reviews of NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha on Amazon.

My Rhodiola Recommendation: Gaia Herbs Rhodiola

Gaia Herbs Rhodiola Rosea

Click to see on Amazon

Overview

High quality? Tick.

Highly rated? Tick.

Highly absorbable? Tick.

Gaia Herbs Rhodiola is the rolls royce of Rhodiola supplements.

What I like about it

Gaia Herbs are levels above their competition when it comes to providing good quality herbal supplements.

All of their supplements are screened for pesticides, heavy metals and microbes to ensure a clean supplement that’s free from any unwanted nasties.

Also, I love that Gaia Herbs use liquid phyto-caps for their Rhodiola.

This basically means they convert their Rhodiola into a liquid extract before putting it in a capsule, which makes it much more absorbable and effective.

And let’s not forget the full traceability Gaia Herbs provide for each supplement they sell…

When you buy one of their products, you can find out how the herb was grown, where it originated and its level of purity and potency.

That’s pretty cool if you ask me!

Potential Drawbacks

As you’d expect with a product as good as this, the price tag isn’t the smallest.

It’s not expensive by any means, but there are many cheaper options out there.

It all depends on whether you value quality over price…

Check price and read more reviews of Gaia Herbs Rhodiola on Amazon.

Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola: The Verdict

We’ve covered a lot in this Ashwagandha vs Rhodiola face off, and I hope you’ve learned a lot too!

And if I’ve done my job properly, you should have a good idea of which of the 2 supplements you’re going to use and see good results with.

But if you’re still on the fence, then here’s what I’d recommend as a high-level guide:

You might prefer Ashwagandha if:

  • You suffer from anxiety
  • You want to boost muscle size and strength
  • You want to increase your testosterone levels

You might prefer Rhodiola if:

  • You want to reduce fatigue
  • You want to lower your stress
  • You want to improve your exercise performance

Hope this helped!

You might also find these articles interesting…

Tommy

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

Which one and how much of it would you recommend for help with mild depression from having a TIA. Thanks

Robb

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Hi Tommy,

For specific recommendations, you'll have to ask your medical doctor as I can't legally give out this advice.

Thanks for your understanding.