Rhodiola: An Herbal Supplement Designed for the Block Plan?

On the Block Plan, adaptation is key. To avoid getting behind with Colorado College’s breakneck academic pace, students must not only adapt quickly to their new class, but also new surroundings. As many students choose to drastically change their environment during Block Break — be it backpacking in the San Juans, Netflix-ing in bed, or traveling across the country — they must prepare themselves for a shift to an intensive classroom setting within 24 hours. CC students tend to become well-practiced at these shifts, but everyone could benefit from further flexibility; that’s where adaptogens may provide assistance.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

Adaptogens are chemicals found in certain strains of mushrooms and plants which help the body adapt to changes and stressors of all kinds. There are many different plants and fungi which have chemicals within them that are considered adaptogens, but there’s one herb that may be particularly amenable to an active life on the Block Plan: Rhodiola rosea. Some studies on adaptogens demonstrated their stimulating mental and physical effects in stressful situations (Medvedev, 1963; Dalinger, 1966; Tuzov, 1968). Rhodiola, however, goes beyond these effects.

As if it were perfectly designed for restless students like those at CC, Rhodiola has been shown to regulate high altitude sleep disorders and improve sleep quality (Ha et al., 2002). As an adaptogen, Rhodiola has a significant stimulating effect, but it is much different than that of more classical stimulants like caffeine. It modulates metabolic regulation, rather than just spiking certain parts in the brain which make you focus; unlike other stimulants, it actually helps with sleep (Petkov, 1978; Bombardelli et al., 1980; Hasan Samira et al., 1985; Wagner et al., 1994; Panossian et al., 1999c; Panossian, 2003). Recently, a study using 161 fatigued and stressed cadets found that a single dose of 360 mg of Rhodiola significantly combatted both symptoms (Shevtsov et al., 2003).

While most other stimulants make users mentally quicker, Rhodiola seems to reduce the number of mistakes made during mental tasks like solving puzzles or memorizing paragraphs — certainly an advantage to those on the ever-changing Block Plan.
Adaptogens, specifically those found in Rhodiola, are supplements which seem to be a much safer, non-addictive stimulant which also helps your mind and body cope with stress. The next time you consider downing a whole pot of coffee or taking someone else’s Adderall for an exam, ask yourself what sort of effects you are hoping to get. Perhaps Rhodiola could benefit you more, particularly in adapting to such stressful situations or transitions.

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