One review shows that chronic stress is linked to increases in sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity that are harmful to health over time, such as inhibiting blood flow to all areas of the body over the long term.
SNS is an integrative system that reacts to dangerous situations, and activation of the SNS is part of the classical ‘fight and flight’ response.
Inhibited blood flow to the genitals, by definition, interferes with genital arousal.
Psychologically, stress can interfere with sexual activity through both emotional and cognitive changes that distract the individual from focusing on sexual cues, research shows.
One study investigated the effects of rhodiola extract in 101 people with life- and work-related stress.
Participants were given 400 mg per day for four weeks.
It found significant improvements in symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and anxiety, after just three days – these improvements continued throughout the study.
Rhodiola has also been shown to improve symptoms of burnout, which can occur with chronic stress.
In a study in 118 people with stress-related burnout, it improved many associated measures, including stress and depression.
Enhancing sexual function
According to a study published in The Journal of the American Botanical Council, rhodiola rosea improved sexual function.
Twenty-six out of 35 men were given 150 to 200 mg a day for three months.
They experienced substantially improved sexual function by the end of the study.
While the link is not entirely clear, rhodiola rosea has been shown to fight fatigue, which may help to partly explain its impact.
One four-week study in 60 people with stress-related fatigue looked at its effects on quality of life and symptoms of fatigue, depression and attention.
Participants received either 576 mg of rhodiola or a placebo pill daily.
It found that rhodiola had a positive effect on fatigue levels and attention, compared to the placebo.