Eleuthero: Snapshot


Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) is considered an adaptogen in that it normalises body functions. It has been used as a tonic to invigorate and fortify the body against fatigue. It was often used during convalescence from disease to increase work capacity and concentration. Traditional Chinese medicine uses it for kidney pain, urine retention, erectile dysfunction (ED), sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, pain and hip weakness, rheumatoid arthritis, and boosting the immune system. It is an immune stimulant that is especially useful for preventing infection during times of intense physical activity and prolonged periods of stress. In addition, it is a versatile training aid for athletes. 

Eleuthero supports the body by helping the liver detoxify harmful toxins, including chemotherapeutic agents and products of radiation exposure. Preliminary studies in Russia have confirmed the use of the herb for people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer, to help alleviate side effects, and to help bone marrow recover more quickly.

Maintenance doses for healthy individuals should be toward the lower end of the dose range, but higher doses should be used for treating illness and for high-stress situations, including athletic training.

The recommended regime for healthy people is a course of 6 weeks followed by a 2-week break. This system can be repeated for as long as is necessary. For treating specific illnesses, continuous use is preferable.

Botanical Name

Eleutherococcus senticosus

Part Used

Root

Common Names

Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero root, taiga root, ci-wu-jia, wu-jia-pi (Chinese)

Brief History

Eleutherococcus senticosusSiberian ginseng owes its origins as a tonic to a Russian physician, I.I. Brekman, who was searching for plants that improve human performance in the 1950s. He studied ginseng, but it was too expensive for the Soviets to consider giving to millions of workers. So Brekman turned to eleuthero, a plant that grew in abundance in Russia. He did no controlled clinical studies, but he did try eleuthero on thousands of workers. In many studies, he found that it countered fatigue, improved performance, and strengthened immunity to disease.

Constituents

Eleutherans (glycans), eleutherosides, triterpenoid saponins

Therapeutic Properties

Tonic, Adaptogen, immunomodulator

Vitalist Properties

Temperature: Warm

Moisture: Dry

Therapeutic Indications

Cancer support, chronic illness, chronic fatigue, convalescence, immune deficiency, stress, athletic endurance.

Primary Uses

Cancer and mumps

Siberian ginseng was found to have a pronounced effect on T cells, mostly T-helper cells, but also cytotoxic and natural killer (NK) cells. It also reduces nitric oxide production, possibly by inhibiting NF-kappa B activity. Siberian ginseng extract was shown to inhibit reactive oxygen species production, which prevents oxygen particles from being released and damaging tissues. Siberian ginseng increases the production of interferon, an immune system chemical. All of these factors make Siberian ginseng appealing for further research in treating cancer.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and viral infections

Siberian ginseng has a proven ability to prevent upper respiratory infections. Russian studies involving tens of thousands of participants found that taking Siberian ginseng for eight to ten weeks before the beginning of the cold and flu season reduces the incidence of these diseases by more than 95 percent. This herb stimulates the activity of several immune system components: B and T cells, which direct the immune response to infection; macrophages, “germ-eating” cells that attack bacteria; and interferons, which “interfere” with every stage of viral infection.

Research suggests that Siberian ginseng improves stamina. Patients with chronic fatigue who used this herb for six months reported less fatigue. Although the results did not differ from placebo, they were encouraging. The participants took four 500-milligram capsules per day for a total of 2.24 milligrams of eleutherosides, which are one of the active ingredients in Siberian ginseng.
Recent evidence suggests that Siberian ginseng may prove valuable in the long-term management of various diseases of the immune system, including HIV/AIDS, CFS, and autoimmune illnesses such as lupus.

Heart disease

Siberian ginseng supplementation has been shown to reduce LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels as well as improve the LDL/HDL (“bad”/”good”) ratio in postmenopausal women after six months. Other studies have reported that Siberian ginseng is protective of the heart against free-radical damage, reducing platelet aggregation, and lowering blood pressure. These benefits are mainly attributable to the fraction, one of the compounds in the herb called eleutherosides. In one study, individuals sixty-five years of age and older who had high blood pressure and felt run-down took 300 milligrams of Siberian ginseng (per day) or placebo for eight weeks. After four weeks, those assigned to the herb group had significantly better mental health and social functioning compared to the placebo group. At eight weeks, the groups’ results were the same, however.

Clinical Research

  • A placebo-controlled, double-blind study demonstrated that Eleutherococcus extract improved maximal work capacity by 23.3% in male athletes compared with a 7.5% increase in the placebo group. The dose used was equivalent to 300 mg/day of dried root and contained 2.12 mg of eleutheroside B and 0.48 mg of eleutheroside E. The dose was administered for 8 days. However, Eleutherococcus extract did not increase work capacity in highly trained distance runners in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
  • A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial involving nine athletes concluded that Eleutherococcus supplementation at 1.2 g/day for 7 days before each of the two trial periods did not alter steady-state substrate utilisation or 10-km cycling performance time.
  • A 40% reduction in lost work days and a 50% reduction in general illness over a 1-year period was observed in a controlled study of 1000 workers in a Siberian factory who received Eleutherococcus. The mean daily temperature of the region was − 5° C (23° F).
  • The following results (compared with baseline values) were obtained in healthy volunteers treated with Eleutherococcus extract for 1 month in a randomised, comparative trial: increased cellular immunity, increased oxygen consumption during maximal physical exercise, increased aerobic metabolism of tissues and decreased blood levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and triglyceride. (The comparison was with administration of Echinacea purpurea aerial parts, which did not produce significant results.)
  • Eleutherococcus extract (equivalent to approximately 6 g/day of dried root) significantly increased T-helper cell and natural killer cell numbers in healthy volunteers in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
  • In uncontrolled trials, Eleutherococcus extract:

• Improved the performance and stamina of explorers, sailors, deep sea divers, mine and mountain rescue workers, truck drivers, pilots, factory workers, labourers, and cosmonauts
• Increased endurance and concentration in track and field athletes, gymnasts, and weight lifters
• Improved running times by an average of 9% in long-distance runners
• Improved the strength of larger muscles in athletes
• Caused faster activation and greater intensity of perspiration in healthy participants exposed to heat stress
• Accelerated reading time and decreased errors in proofreaders
• Enhanced nonspecific immunity, minimised the side effects of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, and improved healing and well-being in patients with cancer
• Alleviated the effects of protracted disease and lengthened survival time in patients with terminal disease
• Improved well-being and lung capacity in patients with chronic bronchitis, pneumoconiosis, and pneumonia
• Improved cardiovascular function and general well-being in patients with atherosclerotic conditions and patients with rheumatic heart lesions
• Lowered blood pressure in patients with hypertension and raised it in those with low blood pressure
• Significantly increased blood pressure and peripheral resistance in children with hypotension
• Caused a faster response to medical treatment in children with dysentery
• Alleviated exhaustion, irritability, insomnia, and mild depression
• Assisted resettled people to adapt to their new and harsh environment in the mountainous, desert area of Mongolia, as measured by normalisation in the parameters measured, including work capacity.

  • In Germany, the Commission E supports using Eleutherococcus as a tonic for invigoration and fortification in times of fatigue and debility, reduced capacity for work and concentration, and during convalescence.

Dosage (Divided Daily)

Dried Root: 3,000 – 5,000mg

• Powder Extract: 500 – 2,000mg (0.8% Eleutherosides)

• Tincture2–8 ml (1:2)

Contraindications

None known

Side effects

Russian studies on Eleutherococcus have noted a general absence of side effects. However, care should be exercised in patients with cardiovascular disorders because insomnia, palpitations, tachycardia, and hypertension have been reported in a few cases. Side effects are more likely if normal doses are exceeded.

Interactions with other drugs

None known.


Buy Eleuthero Extract Capsules or Loose Powder
Dried Eleuthero Root

 Bibliography
  1. Balch, P. A., & Bell, S. J. (2012). Prescription for herbal healing (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Avery.

  2. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Herbalpedia (2013)
  4. Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine: the ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub.
  5. Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh; London: Churchill Livingstone. 

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