Eleuthero, also called Siberian ginseng, has been used medically for at least 2,000 years. It’s a distant relative of another herbal remedy you may already be familiar with, Asian ginseng. Proponents of the Siberian version actually say that eleuthero may be even more adaptogenic!
What is eleuthero used for? The short answer: so many things. One of the most commons uses of this herbal remedy is as an adaptogen. This is why many athletes love it for boosting endurance and reducing fatigue. It’s also used for chronic heart conditions, blood pressure management, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic fatigue, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, colds and flu.
What Is Eleuthero or Siberian Ginseng?
If you ever come across the term “eleutheromania,” it’s not a reference to an obsession with eleuthero root. Eleutheromannia actually means “a manic yearning for freedom.” So it has nothing to do with this quite impressive herbal remedy.
Eleuthro (Eleutherococcus senticosus or Acanthopanax senticosus), also commonly known as Siberian ginseng, is a small, woody shrub belonging to the Araliaceae plant family. Other common names include Devil’s shrub, shigoka, touch-me-not, wild pepper and Kan Jang. Siberian eleuthero is native to the southeastern part of Russia, northern China, Korea and Japan. Eleuthero root and rhizomes (underground stem) are the part of the plant that people use medicinally.
Eleutherosides are the main components of eleuthero that have potential health benefits. There are seven primary eleutherosides in eleuthero, with eleutherosides B and E being the most frequently studied. Siberian ginseng also contains complex polysaccharides, which are a main reason for its ability to boost the immune system.
What are the benefits of eleuthero? There are many, including the following:
1. Natural Adaptogen
Eleuthero belongs to a very special category of healing plants called adaptogens. What are adaptogens? They are plants that are able to help balance, restore and protect the body.
According to a scientific article entitled “Deconstructing an adaptogen: Eleutherococcus senticosus“, the dried roots and rhizomes of Eleutherococcus senticosus (Araliacaea) plant are used in various preparations, primarily for its “adaptogenic” properties. An adaptogen supports health and prevents disease in both sick and healthy individuals through nonspecific effects, which neutralize various environmental and physical stressors while remaining relatively safe and free of side effects.
In general, adaptogens like eleuthero are excellent at helping your body handle stress, whether its physical, chemical or biological. This is very significant since chronic stress is known to contribute to so many health concerns, including the common cold, weight gain, heart disease, sleep problems, depression, ulcers, digestive issues, an impaired healing ability along with back/neck/shoulder pain.
2. Physical Stamina and Mental Alertness
Eleuthero demonstrates an ability to improve physical stamina and mental sharpness similar to caffeine but without an impending crash. Studies to date have had mixed results but some point towards the ability of Eleutherococcus senticosus to boost cardiorespiratory fitness, fat metabolism and overall endurance performance.
According to the book, Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, “Clinical findings also have suggested that patients with moderate fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome may benefit from use of Eleuthero, and that older adults may safely experience improvement in some aspects of mental health and social functioning after four weeks of therapy, although these differences attenuate with continued use.”
Is eleuthero root testosterone boosting? The book also highlights a study on athletic performance and stress response which shows that eleuthero improves the testosterone:cortisol ratio by over 28 percent, an indicator of a decreased stress response in athletes.
3. Colds and Flu
An in vitro study published in the medical journal, Antiviral Research, finds that a liquid extract from the eleuthero root effectively inhibits the replication of human rhinovirus (main cause of the common cold), respiratory syncytial virus (causes respiratory tract infections) and influenza A virus (cause of the flu) in cell cultures infected with these viruses.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled, six month-long study looked at the effects of Siberian ginseng on 93 men and women with recurrent herpes infections; specifically herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2 which causes genital herpes. The researchers gave subjects two grams of Siberian ginseng root daily. The researchers found that the Siberian ginseng decreased the frequency, severity and duration of herpes outbreaks.
5. Learning and Memory
A randomized, controlled, animal study published in the journal, Neural Regeneration Research, looks at the effects of eleutheroside B and E on learning and memory in experimentally aged rats. These active components of Siberian ginseng have previously been shown to improve memory, boost human cognition and relieve fatigue.
This study injected animal subjects with low, medium and high doses (either 50, 100, or 200 mg/kg) of eleutheroside B or E. Four weeks following administration behavioral tests revealed that eleutheroside B or E improved learning and memory in the aged rats.
6. Anti-Cancer Potential
In countries like China, Japan, Korea, and Russia, people commonly used Siberian ginseng for its anti-fatigue, anti-inflammation, anti-stress, anti-ulcer and cardio-boosting qualities. Now recent research is pointing towards the ability of this impressive plant to fight cancer.
According to a scientific paper published in 2016 in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, both in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated Siberian ginseng’s inhibitory effects on malignant tumors, such as those in the lung and liver. Some experts believe that this plant may have strong potential to be developed as an effective anticancer drug.
How to Use Eleuthero
You can find eleuthero supplements in capsule, tablet, tincture, solid extract, or powder form online or at your local health food store. You can also purchase eleuthero tea bags or make tea by combining the dried root with hot water.
It’s very important to buy eleuthero products from a reputable sources because quality is known to vary significantly. Testing of commercial products claiming to contain Siberian ginseng found that as many as 25 percent had none of the herb while others were contaminated with ingredients not even marked on the label!
What is a proper eleuthero dosage? It depends upon your individual health status and health concerns. Always read product labels carefully and check with a professional if you are unsure how much eleuthero to take.
According to the University of Michigan’s Health Library, some commonly used dosages of Siberian ginseng root include:
- Dried powder: two to three grams per day.
- Concentrated solid extract with standardized amounts of eleutherosides B and E: 300 to 400 milligrams per day.
- Alcohol-based liquid extracts: eight to 10 milliliters in two to three divided dosages.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For the common cold: 400 milligrams of Siberian ginseng by mouth three times daily in a supplement that also contains andrographis extract.
- For herpes simplex type 2 infections: Siberian ginseng extract (standardized to contain eleutheroside E at 0.3 percent) in doses of 400 milligrams per day by mouth.
According to the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, for chronic conditions, such as stress or fatigue, Siberian ginseng is sometimes taken for three months, followed by three to four weeks off. It’s best to take Siberian ginseng under your doctor’s supervision.
You may want to avoid taking eleuthero before bed because it is known to cause sleep trouble for some people when taken at night.
Risks and Side Effects
Is eleuthero safe? It is typically safe for most adults when taken by mouth, short-term. Do not give eleuthero to children.
What are the side effects of eleuthero? Siberian ginseng side effects are rare, but may include drowsiness, changes in heart rhythm, sadness, anxiety and muscle spasms. Some users have experienced mild diarrhea. In high doses, increased blood pressure may occur.
Check with your healthcare provider before taking eleuthero if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, check with your doctor before taking this natural remedy if you are currently taking medication or have an ongoing medical condition, especially a bleeding disorder, diabetes, a heart condition, high blood pressure (it may make it worse), a mental health condition like mania or schizophrenia, or a hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids (as Siberian ginseng might act like estrogen).
Medications known to moderately interact with eleuthero include lithium, digoxin (Lanoxin), sedative medications (CNS depressants), anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs and antidiabetes drugs. Medications that the liver changes including lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others may interact with Siberian ginseng. You also should not consume alcohol in combination with Siberian ginseng because this may lead to excessive drowsiness.
- Eleuthero, also commonly known as Siberian ginseng, is a small, woody shrub belonging to the Araliaceae plant family.
- The root of the plant is most often used medicinally and is available in supplement and tea form.
- It’s an adaptogenic plant that can help to ward off the negative effects of stress, which is a leading contributor of so many diseases today.
- Potential eleuthero benefits include its ability to ward off physical and mental stress, boost the immune system and fight viruses — including those that cause the common cold, flu, respiratory infections and genital herpes.
- Recent studies point towards Siberian ginseng’s potential usage as an anti-cancer drug.
- Always check with your doctor before taking a new herbal remedy, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking medication or have an ongoing medical condition.