Can You Combine Rhodiola and Lexapro?

In this article, we will take a close look at the potential interaction between Rhodiola and Lexapro. We will delve into the properties of these substances, their uses in managing depression and anxiety, and the possible risks associated with their combined use.
Natasha Puttick

Natasha Puttick

Graduate medical student at Barts and London.

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What is Rhodiola and how does it work?

Rhodiola, a plant native to high altitude regions of Asia, Europe, and the Northern Hemisphere, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. It is known as an "adaptogen," which means it helps the body adapt to and resist stress [1].

The part of the Rhodiola plant used for medicinal purposes is the rhizome, an underground stem. This rhizome contains several bioactive compounds, including salidroside, rosin, rosavin, and p-tyrosol [1]. These compounds have been shown to have strong antioxidant properties, effectively scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) [2].

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Rhodiola rosea, an adaptogenic herb, has been shown to help reduce stress through various mechanisms. It can modulate the release of stress hormones like catecholamines and cortisol, helping to regulate the body's stress response. Rhodiola rosea also has antioxidant properties, which can protect against oxidative stress caused by chronic stress. Additionally, it may enhance the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in mood regulation. These effects contribute to Rhodiola rosea's ability to alleviate stress and promote a sense of well-being. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]

Rhodiola plants contain various compounds, but the main compounds found in Rhodiola species include salidroside, tyrosol, rosavin, rhodiolin, rhodionin, kaempferol, herbacetin, lotaustralin, and sucrose. These compounds have been identified through chemical and spectral analysis in different studies. However, the specific composition and quantities of these compounds may vary among different Rhodiola species. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

Benefits of Rhodiola

Rhodiola's Impact on the Immune System

Rhodiola has been found to stimulate the production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and mouse macrophage cell line RAW 264.7. These are proinflammatory mediators that play a crucial role in the immune response [3].

Rhodiola's Role in Stress Management and Mental Health

Rhodiola is also known for its role in boosting immunity, increasing energy, and enhancing mental capacity [1]. It has been used as an athletic performance enhancer, which could potentially support a weight loss plan [4].

Rhodiola's Antioxidant Properties

The antioxidant properties of Rhodiola are significant. It has been shown to reverse DNA damage and alter the expression of cytokines and antioxidative enzymes induced by ROS [2].

Rhodiola's Potential Anti-Tumor Activity

Rhodiola has also shown potential anti-tumor activity. For instance, Rhodiola quadrifida extract and its main biologically active compound, salidroside, have been found to significantly decrease neovascular reaction, a process involved in tumor growth [5].

What is Lexapro and how does it work?

Lexapro, also known as escitalopram, is a type of antidepressant that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) [6, 7, 8]. SSRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a key messenger chemical that helps regulate your mood [7].

Escitalopram exerts a highly selective, potent, and dose-dependent inhibitory effect on the human serotonin transport. By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin into presynaptic nerve endings, this drug enhances the activity of serotonin in the central nervous system [9].

Escitalopram binds with high affinity to the human serotonin transporter. This binding action is what makes escitalopram effective in treating depression and anxiety disorders [10].

In addition to treating depression, Lexapro is also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder in adults. If you have an anxiety disorder, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode more often and for longer periods of time. Lexapro can help to regulate this response [7].

How do Rhodiola and Lexapro compare?

Rhodiola rosea and Lexapro (escitalopram) are both used in the management of depression and anxiety. Rhodiola rosea is a plant used in traditional medicine for its adaptogenic properties, which help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance [11]. Lexapro, on the other hand, is a prescription medication used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder [6]. However, the potential interaction between these two substances is a topic of interest.

Do Rhodiola and Lexapro interact?

There is limited scientific evidence available on the direct interaction between Rhodiola rosea and Lexapro. However, a case report has shown that Rhodiola rosea, when combined with the antidepressant paroxetine, led to a serotonergic syndrome in a 68-year-old female patient, characterized by vegetative syndrome, restlessness, and trembling [12].

Lexapro, like paroxetine, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and both medications increase serotonin levels in the brain. Therefore, it is plausible that a similar interaction could occur with Lexapro and Rhodiola rosea, potentially leading to an overabundance of serotonin, a condition known as serotonin syndrome. This condition can result in serious complications that can be life-threatening in some cases [6].


While there is no direct evidence of an interaction between Rhodiola rosea and Lexapro, caution is advised due to the potential risk of serotonin syndrome. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication or supplement, especially when combining substances that may affect serotonin levels in the brain.

For more information about the interactions of Lexapro, read our blogs about Ashwagandha and Lexapro, Lexapro and hydroxyzine or Lexapro and Chaga.

Natasha Puttick

Natasha Puttick

Natasha is a medical student at Barts and the London school of Medicine and Dentistry, with an interest in the social determinants of health. She graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in Human Sciences and has obtained two publications. Her most recent work investigating clinical vaccine trials has been published in BMJ Public Health.