Herb: Eleuthero Root


eleuthero-root-fieldandherbs-labeledEleuthero Root

Eleuthero belongs to the Araliaceae family and is a distant relative of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). Also known commonly as touch-me-not and devil’s shrub, eleuthero has been most frequently nicknamed Siberian ginseng in this country. Eleuthero is native to the Taiga region of the Far East (southeastern part of Russia, northern China, Korea, and Japan). The root and the rhizomes (underground stem) are used medicinally.

How It Works

The constituents in eleuthero that have been most studied are the eleutherosides. Seven primary eleutherosides have been identified, with most of the research attention focusing on eleutherosides B and E. Eleuthero also contains complex polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules). These constituents may play a critical role in eleuthero’s ability to support immune function.

Eleuthero is an “adaptogen” (an agent that helps the body adapt to stress). It is thought to help support adrenal gland function when the body is challenged by stress.

Eleuthero has been shown to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance without the letdown that comes with caffeinated products. Research has shown that eleuthero improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle. This means that a person is able to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recover from workouts more quickly. Preliminary research from Russia indicates it may be effective for this purpose. Other trials have been inconclusive8 or have shown no beneficial effect.

Eleuthero may also support the body by helping the liver detoxify harmful toxins. It has shown a protective action in animal studies against chemicals such as ethanol, sodium barbital, tetanus toxoid, and chemotherapeutic agents. According to a test tube study eleuthero also helps protect the body during radiation exposure. Preliminary research in Russia has suggested that eleuthero may help alleviate side effects and help the bone marrow recover more quickly in people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.

Eleuthero has been shown to be effective as a treatment for the common cold when combined with andrographis in a formula sometimes referred to as Kan Jang. Preliminary evidence also suggests that eleuthero may prove valuable in the long-term management of various diseases of the immune system, including HIV infection and chronic fatigue syndrome. Healthy people taking 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of tincture three times daily have been shown to have increased numbers of the immune cells (T4 lymphocytes) that have been found to decrease during HIV-infection and AIDS.15 Further human clinical trials are needed to confirm that eleuthero may be helpful for this disease.

Most Commonly Used For:

Athletic Performance: eleuthero supplementation may improve athletic performance, according to preliminary research. The herb strengthens the immune system and thus might reduce the risk of post-exercise infection.

Fatigue: One study found that an eleuthero extract improved symptoms in patients suffering from mild-to-moderate chronic fatigue.

Immune Function: eleuthero has historically been used to support the immune system.

Stress: eleuthero appears to have anti-stress effects. Supplementing with an eleuthero extract led to higher quality-of-life measures in healthy elderly people, according to one study.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: “Adaptogenic” herbs, such as eleuthero, have an immunomodulating effect and helps support the normal function of the body’s hormonal stress system.

Common Cold and Sore Throat: “Adaptogenic” herbs, such as eleuthero, are thought to help keep various body systems, including the immune system, functioning optimally.

HIV and AIDS Support: Eleuthero is an immune-modulating plant that may be beneficial for people with HIV infection.

Infection: Eleuthero supports the immune system and protects against microbes.

Influenza: Eleuthero has immune-enhancing properties, which may play a role in preventing infection with the influenza virus.

Ancient and Traditional Use

Although not as popular as Asian ginseng, eleuthero use dates back 2,000 years, according to Chinese medicine records. Referred to as ci wu jia in Chinese medicine, it was used to prevent respiratory tract infections, colds and flu. It was also believed to provide energy and vitality. In Russia, eleuthero was originally used by people in the Siberian Taiga region to increase performance and quality of life and to decrease infections.

In more modern times, eleuthero has been used to increase stamina and endurance in Soviet Olympic athletes. Russian explorers, divers, sailors, and miners also used eleuthero to prevent stress-related illness. After the Chernobyl accident, many Russian and Ukrainian citizens were given eleuthero to counteract the effects of radiation.

Interactions with Medications

There are quite a few medications that can interact with Eleuthero Root, always check with your medical professional before adding any supplement to your lifestyle, especially when taking prescribed medications.

Possible interactions with these following prescription medications (this may not be an all inclusive list):

  • Bicalutamide
  • Busulfan
  • Capecitabine
  • Carboplatin
  • Carmustine
  • Chlorambucil
  • Cisplatin
  • Cladribine
  • Clopidogrel
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Cytarabine
  • Digoxin
  • Dipyridamole
  • Docetaxel
  • Erlotinib
  • Etoposide
  • Floxuridine
  • Fludarabine
  • Fluorouracil
  • Hydroxyurea
  • Ifosfamide
  • Influenza Virus Vaccine
  • Irinotecan
  • Lomustine
  • Mechlorethamine
  • Melphalan
  • Mercaptopurine
  • Methotrexate
  • Paclitaxel
  • Polifeprosan 20 with Carmustine
  • Thioguanine
  • Thiotepa
  • Ticlopidine
  • Uracil Mustard
  • Vinblastine
  • Vincristine
  • Warfarin

Resources to Dive Into

Asano K, Takahashi T, Miyashita M, et al. Effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus extract on human working capacity. Planta Medica 1986;37:175-7.

Asano K, Takahashi T, Miyashita M, et al. Effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus extract on human working capacity. Planta Medica 1986;37:175-7.

Ben-Hur E, Fulder S. Effect of P. ginseng saponins and Eleutherococcus S. on survival of cultured mammalian cells after ionizing radiation. Am J Chin Med 1981;9:48-56.

Bohn B, Nebe CT, Birr C. Flow cytometric studies with Eleutherococcus senticosus extract as an immunomodulating agent. Arzneim-Forsch Drug Res 1987;37:1193-6.

Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 69-77.

Collisson RJ. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Brit J Phytother 1991;2:61-71 [review].

Collisson RJ. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Brit J Phytother 1991;2:61-71 [review].

Coon JT, Ernst E. Andrographis paniculata in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review of safety and efficacy. Planta Med 2004;70:293-98.

Farnsworth NR, Kinghorn AD, Soejarto DD, Waller DP. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): Current status as an adaptogen. In Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, vol 1, ed. Wagner H, Hikino HZ, Farnsworth NR. London: Academic Press, 1985, 155-215 [review].

Farnsworth NR, Kinghorn AD, Soejarto DD, Waller DP. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): Current status as an adaptogen. In Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, vol 1, ed. Wagner H, Hikino HZ, Farnsworth NR. London: Academic Press, 1985, 155-215 [review].

Hikino H, Takahashi M, Otake K, konno C. Isolation and hypoglycemic activity of eleutherans A, B, C, D, E, F and G: glycans of Eleutherococcus senticosus roots. J Natural Prod 1986;49:293-7.

Kelly GS. Sports nutrition: A review of selected nutritional supplements for endurance athletes. Alt Med Rev 1997;2:282-95 [review].

Kupin VI, Polevaia EB. Stimulation of the immunological reactivity of cancer patients by eleutherococcus extract. Vopr Onkol 1986;32:21-6 [in Russian].

McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 45.

McNaughton L. A comparison of Chinese and Russian ginseng as ergogenic aids to improve various facets of physical fitness. Int Clin Nutr Rev 1989;9:32-5.

McRae S. Elevated serum digoxin levels in a patient taking digoxin and Siberian ginseng. Can Med Assoc J 1996;155:293-5.

Poolsup N, Suthisisang C, Prathanturarug S, et al. Andrographis paniculata in the symptomatic treatment of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Clin Pharm Ther 2004;29:37-45.

Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomedicine 1994;1:63-76.

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