Nootropics for Stress Relief and Anxiety Part 1: Rhodiola rosea and L-Theanine

Intro

If you follow Robert Sapolsky, Hans Selye, and/or Ray Peat Ph.D., you will know that excess stress can drop you faster than Tyson did Spinks, without the luxury of getting back up. If you would like to know how dangerous stress truly is, look up the works of those men.

But today, I’ll show you 2 natural champion-level substances that have a mountain of research praising their usefulness for whoopin’ stress’s ass. Keep in mind, these nootropics profiles are for fun. I’m not a guru nor infallible. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Rhodiola rosea

What if I told you I had a natural nootropic that could give you the endurance of Nick Diaz or Cain Velasquez, the courage of a Green Beret in the heat of battle, fight fatigue, slaughter stress, and is anti-estrogenic? I’m only partially joking. You might never have the endurance of Nick or Cain or Green Beret courage, but this stuff might get you close.

I’m talking about Rhodiola rosea [RR].

Also known as golden root, roseroot, Arctic root, King’s crown and many other names. You won’t hear of a better herb with more street rep, except maybe Panax Ginseng. Second best just means it works harder. To say it’s a super herb would be an understatement.

It grows and thrives at high altitudes in multiple cold regions such as the Arctic, the Alps, Scandinavia, and Iceland. The plant itself is a bad motherf**ker. If you want to be among the ranks of the best, get you some.

Interesting Facts

  • “The rootstock of R. rosea was often used in European folk love potions. The legendary 13th century Ukrainian prince Danila Galitsky, whose reputation rivalled that of Casanova, was believed to have used roseroot as an aphrodisiac.”1
  • Ukranians make an alcoholic tonic from it called “Nastojka.” They mix 80 proof vodka and an equal amount of RR, letting it sit for a few weeks before taking a few teaspoons daily. It’s said to boost mental, physical, and sexual performance.1,2
  • The Vikings reportedly used it for strength, courage, endurance and help with cold tolerance.3
  • A guy apparently boosted his IQ by ~25 points using it4
  • Been a staple in Scandinavian and Eastern European diets for ages, as well as being used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

12+ Key Insane Benefits:

  1. Very strong anti-fatigue effects:
  2. “[…] Rhodiola appears to be highly reliable in reducing fatigue symptoms and improving symptoms of stress (and secondary to that, well-being) in persons fatigued from non-exercise related stressors.”

    “[…] Rhodiola appears to be able to significantly reduce the effects of prolonged and minor physical exhaustion that results in fatigue. This is more related to stress and the ‘burnout’ effect, or prolonged but low intensity physical exercise.”5

  3. Improves memory and cognition.17,18
  4. Enhances metabolism via enhancing mitchondrial function (see #2 in section below)
  5. All preliminary evidence suggests it effective against anxiety10
  6. Appears to be anti-depressive as well (when used daily) and treats mild to moderate depression with no noticed side effects11
  7. Neuroprotective 12,13,14
  8.  
    Take a break because there are still more mind-blowing benefits. I spent 20 hours reading and compiling info for this post.  

  9. May increase lifespan by up to 20% (non-mammalian study)15
  10. Reduces corticosteroids in the brain5
  11. Speeds up the rate of nerve healing16
  12. Seems to induce synthesis of opioids and has anti-arrhythmia effects6,7
  13. May also have a strong anti-amnesian effect 17
  14. Early evidence suggests it is anti-estrogenic19
  15. even more benefits lsited on Pubmed

F**k it, here are more benefits, courtesy of Examine.com if Viking usage didn’t convince you:

“Overall, these studies suggest that usage of rhodiola is associated with improvements in cognitive fatigue,[68][66][4][69] PWC exercise scores,[66] neuro-motoric fitness (maze drawing),[66] reductions in processing errors,[4] sustained attention,[67] reaction time,[67] general well-being,[66][4] and a reduction in pulse rate[66] relative to placebo treatment.”

Benefits for days, ya heard me? Taking this stuff just might give you the strength and ferocity of the Vikings. Praise Odin and pop some Rhodiola.

If yo wig ain’t blown back by those benefits…you silly right now.

How It Works and What It Does:

  1. Strongly reduces stress and fatigue
  2. If you are stressed out and/or fatigued, this should be in your top 3 go-to supplements. If you are an athlete, or work a job where mental performance is crucial under pressure, you want Rhodiola. There is overwhelming evidence for fatigue mitigation and prevention, subjective well-being, and cognition. Examine.com give it an “A” in the former and a “B” in latter two.

  3. Amps up metabolism and energy
  4. Geeked out explanation: It stimulates AMPK enzymes. more amounts of AMPK or more active AMPK increases mitochondria. This suggests increased metabolic function and higher energy levels which would contribute to RR’s ability to increase endurance and decrease fatigue8,9 Most of the effects come from phosphorylating (i.e. activating) the AMPK enzyme just mentioned by salidroside, a compound in RR. AMPK, according to Wikipedia is a “metabolic master switch.” Oddly, salidroside mimics insulin by stimulating glucose uptake, so it may act as a glucose disposal agent as well8.

  5. Plus those benefits listed above

All these benefits are obtained mainly from the compounds salidroside, tyrosol, and to a lesser extent, rosavin20.

Research-Proven Effective Dosages:

These dosages refer to rhodiola extracts with a standardization of 3% salidroside. Be sure to look for that percentage or higher, otherwise don’t waste your money. Rosavins aren’t very “nootropically” active.

50mg: has been seen effective for daily fatigue prevention5
288–680 mg: for acute fatigue and anti-stress benefits5

150–300 mg: as a daily total amount, this is a good starting place.

Taking a dosage higher than 680mg will probably not work, as the effective of dosage seems to have a bell-shaped curve5. RR is slightly stimulatory and any negative side effects tend to be noticed when taking total daily dosages outside the “research-proven” dosages.

Safety:

Human trials noted no side effects that were “clinically relevant”5,21

My Experience:

1. Noticed was a significant decrease in fatigue while in a moderately severe calorie deficit.
2. Noticed a decrease in fatigue when strength training and I could get a few more reps in on body weight squats and push ups.
3. Noticed that I didn’t “gas” as easily when running or sprinting. The reduction in fatigue gave me a boost in energy without any “crash” afterwards.

I last supplemented with it for 3 months and about to order some more soon.

Besy Rhodiola to buy:

Favorites:
Eclectic Institute, 500mg capsules.
Nootropics City Rhodiola Capsules

I took half a capsule per day. Should last 6 months at that dosage. It has nothing else in the capsule except Rho.

24 July 2014 update: Ceretropic.com has a “Super Rhodiola” that I can’t wait to try. It’s an extract of Rho’s main active ingredients salidroside and tyrosol.

Runner-Ups (no order):
–NOW Foods
–Vitacost Brand
–Life Extension Rhodiola Extract

Note: what matters the most is the standardization of the salidroside and rosavin, but Eclectic Institute. Both pills and powder forms of Rhodiola can be found.

Extra tips:

  • Combine it with Magnesium (get the chloride, citrate, glycinate, or threonate forms) to get even more relaxation benefits.
  • Since it’s slightly stimulatory, you probably don’t want to pop some before going to sleep. If you are already on stimulants, avoid it.
  • Stacks very well with Eleutherococcus senticosus and Schisandra chinensis
  • Goes well with Piracetam or L-theanine as well.
  • Check out Dr. Curran’s post on Rhodiola here for an even more comprehensive look at it.

L-Theanine

I’ve already talked about L-Theanine briefly and mentioned it as a top nootropic for beginners.

I’ll keep this section terse.

L-theanine, an amino acid, was discovered in 1949 in green tea leaves by Japanese scientists. In 1964, it got the “unlimited use” pass for all foods except infant foods in Japan. It is probably the safest of the safest nootropics. It is similar in structure to, and affects the body much like, the neurotransmitter GABA.

Interesting Facts:

As far as I know, it’s only found in 3 things: green tea, black tea, and oddly also in the edible Boletus badius mushroom23.

Key Benefits:

  • Relaxation without sedation or sleepiness. Takes the “edge” off25.
  • Anxiety reducing properties26
  • Increases alpha brain waves, a biomarker of relaxation.29
  •  
    4 more from the Suntheanine manufacturer22:

  • “Relaxation from Anxiety”
    “Human brain-wave studies confirm L-theanine as Suntheanine produces a state of alert relaxation by generating the [alpha]-brain waves within 30 min from the administration (1).”22
  • “Relaxation from Fatigue”
  • Better sleep and awakened feeling refreshed
  • “Relaxation from physical stress”

How It Works and What It Does:

  1. Increases GABA
  2. Believed to increase GABA once it crosses the blood-brain barrier. GABA is a neurotransmitter that performs “downer” and relaxation functions. I would guess they (GABA and L-thea) up-regulates things that activate the parasympathetic nervous system or down-regulate mechanisms that control the sympathethic nervous system.

  3. Increases dopamine and serotonin24
  4. (Weakly) inhibits glutamate release (the main “excitatory” neurotransmitter)
  5. “Theanine also protects normal cells from damage by these drugs via antioxidant activity, specifically by maintaining cellular GSH levels.”28

Research-Proven Effective Dosages:

50–250 mg: this range increases alpha brain waves (i.e. relaxation)29,31
200mg: At a 1:1 ratio with caffeine (200mg each) it forms a synergistic chemistry that improves cognition and attention30

200–250mg: Anti-anxiety dosages used in most studies. Increases alpha brain waves in stressed individuals.31

Dosages as high as 400mg/day have been taken safely35.

Low dosage of L-theanine has shown stimulatory effects, suggesting multiple biological activities32.

Safety:

Incredibly safe at high doses. No harmful side effects have been observed. In other words, safe as shit:

“LD50 value of Suntheanine was determined to be more than 5,000 mg/kg. No rat died consuming the above dose during a 7 day observation period. […] Suntheanine was well tolerated up to a dose of 6500 mg/kg/day in a two-week study. Assessment of toxicity was based on mortality, clinical observations, clinical pathology, organ weights and macroscopic observations. All animals survived and no remarkable clinical observations were observed.” 22

However, if you are on chemo:

“Theanine also inhibits the efflux of chemotherapeutic agents, such as doxorubicin, idarubicin, cisplatin, and irinotecan, causing them to accumulate in tumor cells.”28

My Experience:

  • L-Theanine has a slightly sweet taste and I notice no after-taste.
  • Gives me a what I call a “smooth and relaxed focus.” It’s VERY subtle, you might notice it more if drink coffee.
  • Works better for me if I take it sublingually on an empty stomach.

Best L-theanine to buy:

As far as I can tell, the only way to know that you are getting purely L-Theanine is to buy products containing Suntheanine®. An API-MS (atmospheric pressure ionization mass spectrometry) analysis was done and confirmed it to be L-theanine (>99%) according to it’s manufacturer (Taiyo International, Inc.)22. This study27 seems to agree:

Figure 5 shows the results for the SunTheanine[…] product as compared with the L-theanine standard. This was the only commercially available product tested which showed no substantial amount of D-theanine

The other active enantiomer, D-theanine doesn’t seem to perform the same functions as L-theanine34. If you get it from drinking tea, you are mostly getting L. When you buy synthesized stuff, unless it’s Suntheanine, you’re getting some D- enantiomer and sometimes in large amounts27.

I get Nootropics Depot’s L-theanine capsules or Nootropics City’s capsules and they work for me.

I’ll update you when I get a Suntheanine brand product so I can compare.

Extra tips:

  • Stacks very well with caffeine
  • Half-life: 3h for 100mg33
  • Peak plasma concentration time: 0.8h for 100mg (~48mins after ingestion) 33

If you know you’ll be experiencing anxiety…200mg sublingually 50-60 minutes before the event should be helpful.

Thrive in freedom with strength,
Nootroponaut

Be sure you check examine.com and know your medical problems before blindly trying anything. I ain’t ya daddy. I can’t give and AM NOT giving medical advice. I am not licensed to practice medicine. The FDA ain’t approved anything on this page. The products, supplements, and services mentioned on this Website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, alleviate or prevent any diseases. You know the deal. Talk with your physician/qualified health care professional before consuming any substance. See my medical disclaimer for more info.
[1] http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/science-publications-and-resources/resources/canadian-medicinal-crops/medicinal-crops/rhodiola-rosea-l-scop-roseroot/?id=1301435969541#a11
[2] http://www.rhodiolaroseabenefits.com/rhodiola_drinks.html
[3] http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/kill/rhodiola_rosea_the_strength_of_vikings_1
[4] http://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/24w2iy/i_tested_iq_on_rhodiola_caffeine_results_show_145/
[5] http://examine.com/supplements/Rhodiola+Rosea
[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7506072
[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9162281
[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18501890
[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20308973
[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18307390
[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17990195
[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19554425
[13] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22095090
[14] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22086763
[15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18536978
[16] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23358450
[17] http://link.springer.com/article/10.2478%2Fs11536-012-0124-7
[18] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23396166
[19] http://www.aacrmeetingabstracts.org/cgi/content/abstract/2004/1/663-b
[20] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17072830
[21] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21036578
[22] http://www.suntheanine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2007.01.rao_.suntheanine.nutracos.pdf
[23] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13808157
[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9566605
[25] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051106001451
[26] http://examine.com/show_rubric_effect.php?id=99&effect=Anxiety&selection=all
[27] http://www.hbcprotocols.com/theanine.pdf
[28] http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/10/2/136.pdf
[29] http://www.koreamed.org/SearchBasic.php?RID=0124KJN/2003.36.9.918&DT=1
[30] http://examine.com/supplements/Theanine
[31] http://astp.jst.go.jp/modules/search/index.php?page=DocumentDetail&journalId=0002-1407_72_2_Effects+of+L-Theanine+on+the+Release+of+.ALPHA.-Brain+Waves+in+Human+Volunteers._N%2FA
[32] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10737183
[33] http://jn.nutrition.org/content/142/12/2091.long#T1
[34] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15704209
[35] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21208586