What is it?
Salidroside is the most biologically active of two biological compounds (the other being Rosavin) found in Rhodiola Rosea – an ingredient whose name is frequently featured on the labels of pre-workout and mental enhancement products, yet its benefits are not so well known. Rhodiola Rosea is a root historically used in Chinese Medicine, however recently more in products aiming to improve cognitive performance – ranging from pre-workouts to natural caffeine alternatives.
How does it work?
It is known as an adaptogen – which put simply is a compound which stabilizes physiological processes and reduces those which induce a negative response (for example decreasing release of stress hormones). So, in essence, it desensitizes the individual to environmental stressors, thus promoting overall bodily equilibrium – which includes the reduction of stress hormones like cortisol and support of the parasympathetic nervous system (a way the body deals with stress which is not as damaging). By reducing the onset of potentially detrimental stress responses, cognition is thus improved allowing for greater focus and concentration for prolonged periods.
Multiple studies imply that Rhodiola Rosea (RR) has a particularly effective impact on both our psychological reactions to environmental stimuli. For example; a meta-analysis* by Hung et al. (2011) found the most significant benefits of RR usage came during prolonged periods of tension, whereby cognition significantly improved. Similarly, Edwards et al. (2012) found scientifically significant improvements (short and long term) in stress and fatigue reduction – both studies implying mental performance improvements come from use of the substance. However, RR has also been found to catalyse profound physiological effects, particularly in regard to fatigue reduction. De Bock et al. (2012) found subjects who were given 200mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract (1% Salidroside) demonstrated a notable increase in time taken to reach exhaustion, compared with the second group who were given 700mg starch. Both physiology and psychology have been found to possess a link, with increases in psychological efficiency (attention, focus, calm etc…) frequently correlating with improved physiological performance (Wachtel, 1967). Therefore, use of RR is beneficial in for both psychology and physiology: as one directly affects the other.
Salidroside as a standalone compound has not been subject to such intensive research as Rhodiola Rosea, however animal studies which have been conducted do show that it can yield similarly significant improvements in cognitive ability – findings which may be applicable to humans too.
Both Zhang et al. (2013) and Liang et al. (2017) found Salidroside was able to inhibit excessive inflammatory responses and regulate the overall function of the nervous system in rats, reducing oxidative stress (the most damaging form) – which implies that it can act as a stress reducing agent and consequently improve cognitive performance. Gao et al. (2015) also found that Salidroside was able to improve cognitive capacity and decrease cognitive impairment through inhibition of neuro-inflammation in certain areas of rat’s brains. Such findings imply that the compound may be particularly effective for memory enhancement, as the region of maximum brain activity observed was that commonly associated with onset of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Such findings are supported by Zhang et al. (2012) who concluded that Salidroside may possess the future capacity to treat Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting oxidative stress in the brain (which in turn reduces neuro-inflammation).
Again, it is recognised that improvement to cognitive function catalyses positive physiological responses and thus improvements in performance – so Salidroside as a compound is scientifically backed as a comprehensive promoter of vitality and wellbeing at a much more potent level than Rhodiola Rosea alone.
*meta-analysis – a research technique whereby the results of multiple, previously conducted studies are analysed in order to prove/disprove a new scientific hypothesis. Allows for greater study sizes to be used and thus increases overall validity.
How will it benefit me?
- Concentration = Salidroside as a standalone product has a concentration of 98% per serving, as oppose to a Rhodiola supplement which may only contain 3% Salidroside and a large percentage of Rosavin (which is known to be less effective in this context). Due to the fact Salidroside meditates the positive effects of Rhodiola, a pure product delivers much more potent effects which we have already ascertained can benefit everyone in some respect.
- Fatigue Onset Delay = Rhodiola Rosea, and hence Salidroside, have evidently been shown to reduce time taken to reach fatigue both mentally and physically. Such a reduction means you can be productive for longer, as well as increase the quality of work done – beneficial for everyone at multiple stages in their career!
- Easy to Take = Just 2 capsules a day are required for optimal use, and do not need to be stacked with any other product in order to receive maximum effect.
- Value for Money = Not only is Salidroside considered superior to caffeine in terms of effectiveness, it’s also cheaper too! When compared to caffeine, 2 capsules of Salidroside works out at 80p – whereas just one Tall Starbucks Americano comes in at just under £3.
- Non-Stimulant Properties = As it is not a stimulant, you cannot develop a tolerance with Salidroside so there is no need to undertake periods of abstinence in order to experience the full benefits of the substance.
Is it safe?
Yes. Firstly, Salidroside is a predominantly natural substance, so does not carry potential for adverse reactions like certain synthetic products. Additionally, Salidroside does not act with the same stimulant properties as Caffeine; an ingredient very commonly used in mental enhancement product yet is known to have addictive/detrimental properties. Instead of producing a direct inhibiting effect as Caffeine does, Salidroside instead promotes full-body vitality through what is known as a ‘Positive Feedback’ loop. Positive Feedback promotes change in a system by catalysing a series of events which have a ‘runaway effect’ to stimulate an adjustment in the system mechanics.
Salidroside prevents the build-up of beta-lipo-proteins caused by the onset of stress. This means glucose can be efficiently/more readily be produced.
More ‘free’ glucose means more is available for cells to use as energy or to build biological messengers (eg. mRNA).
Optimal cell function is achieved, and a greater number of messenger molecules results in more efficient transport and utilisation of nutrients around the body and to the brain.
In turn, overall function of the body is better meaning when a stressful situation arises again, the body does not respond so aggressively.
In addition to this positive feedback effect, Salidroside does not exhibit similar side effects to that of caffeine (such as insomnia, irritability, upset stomach and the well-known ‘crash’) however delivers an equally, if not greater, cognitive enhancing effect.
Who can use it?
can be used by anybody who wishes to improve overall cognitive vigour. Due to it’s pronounced ability to diminish the detrimental effects of stress on the body, it will be particularly useful for those who find themselves in high pressure, demanding situations for long periods; whereby onset of fatigue needs to be avoided. This may include office workers, students and even busy parents.
Such scenarios can even be extended to include endurance athletes too – as Rhodiola Rosea use can prove beneficial for promoting endurance by reducing time to exhaustion (De Bock et al. 2012). So by isolating and enhancing the benefits of Salidroside, use as a supplement has the significant ability to delay fatigue. This means it can also be used as part of a pre-workout stack, to provide intense focus and concentration during longer workouts, or after a particularly demanding day whereby mental fatigue is prevalent.
De Bock, K., Eijinde, B.O., Ramaekers, M., Hespel, P. (2004) Acute Rhodiola Rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. 14(3), p. 298-307.
Edwards, D., Heufelder, A., Zimmermann, A. (2012) Therapeutic effects and safety of Rhodiola rosea extract WS® 1375 in subjects with life-stress symptoms–results of an open-label study. Phytotherapy Research. 26(8), p. 1220-1225
Gao J, He H, Jiang W, Chang X, Zhu L, Luo F, Zhou R, Ma C, Yan T. (2015) Salidroside ameliorates cognitive impairment in a d-galactose-induced rat model of Alzheimer’s disease. Behavioural Brain Research. 293, p. 27-33.
Hung, S.K., Perry, R., Ernst, E. (2011) The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola Rosea L: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine. 18(4), p. 235-244.
Liang, L., Ma, Z., Dong, M., Ma, J., Jiang, A., Sun, X. (2017) Protective effects of salidroside against isoflurance-induced cognitive impairment in rats. Human & Experimental Toxicology. doi: 10.1177/0960327116688068
Zhang J, Song L, Kong W, Shao T, Wen X, Liu P, Chai X. (2012) Study on effect and mechanism of salidroside on cognitive ability of Abeta1-40 -induced Alzheimer’s disease model rats. Journal of Chinese Medicine. 37 (14), p. 2122-6.
Zhang, J., Zhen, Y.F., Pu-Bu-Ci-Ren, Song, L.G., Kong, W.N., Shao, T.M., Li, X., Chai, X.Q. (2013) Salidroside attenuates beta amyloid-induced cognitive deficits via modulating oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators in rat hippocampus. Behavioral Brain Research. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.01.037
Wachtel, P.L. (1967) Conceptions of broad or narrow attention. Psychological Bulletin, 68, 417-429.