Side Effects and Benefits of Eleuthero Root

Overview of Eleuthero Root

Eleuthero Root, which is technically called Eleutherococcus senticosus (formerly Acanthopanax senticosus), has also sometimes been called Siberian Ginseng, although Eleuthero is not Ginseng.  “Ginseng” properly refers only to the Panax species.

Eleuthero is a small woody shrub that is native to Northeastern Asia, including China, Japan, and eastern Russia.  It grows primarily in mountain forests and can grow to a height of 2 to 3 metres.  The plant’s root is the medicinal part of the plant.

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Eleuthero promotes growth and revitalization of the body and mind and combines well with Ashwagandha.

Eleuthero Throughout History

The history of Eleuthero has been a subject of debate.  Some scientists assert that the Chinese people used Eleuthero for centuries for boosting the immune system before its official “discovery” by Soviet scientists in the 1950s.

When the Soviets introduced the botanical to the West, U.S. scientists dubbed the plant “Siberian Ginseng” as its effects were similar to Panax Ginseng.  Although their effects are similar, Eleuthero is thought to be more tonifying and gentle than Panax Ginseng.

The Russians tested Eleuthero in several trials and noted adaptogenic (stress protective) effects.  As a result, Soviet athletes and the military employed the use of Eleuthero to improve performance and endurance.

Eleuthero has now become a mainstay in herbal medicine, particularly in China where Eleuthero is frequently prescribed for various chronic illnesses.  Europe and North America have also taken notice of Eleuthero.

In 1991, the German Commission E, a government sponsored committee formed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of herbal extracts, declared Eleuthero effective in boosting the immune system.

The Commission E publications were imported to the United States in 1998 by the American Botanical Council and endorsed by Dr. Varro Tyler, a well-known professor of pharmacognosy at Purdue University.

Eleuthero Health Benefits

Eleuthero is commonly used to enhance physical and mental well-being, and to treat fatigue, weakness, declining mental performance, and mild depression. It is a supplement that improves general energy and vitality, especially during times of stress or fatigue.

Eleuthero has been used to improve:

  • Alertness
  • Relaxation
  • Vitality
  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Sleep and conditions of insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Resistance to colds
  • Blood pressure
  • Energy

Athletes have been known to use Eleuthero in training as it increases energy stores and relieves stress.  It also has been used by students for mental acuity as tension is relieved, allowing the mind to focus.

Eleuthero is said to improve the balance of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in the brain.

Eleuthero is taken regularly to enhance immune function, and to build resistance to stress and fatigue.  It is known to be a gentle adaptogen (rejuvenating herb) in the correct doses and is a preferable alternative to some who find regular Ginseng panax to leave uneasy, jittery, or nervous effects.

Clinical Studies of Eleuthero

Clinical studies have shown Eleuthero to enhance both mental and physical performance.

In one 2005 Swedish study, botanical dosages made up of Eleuthero, Rhodiola rosea, and Schizandra chinensis showed an increase in mental performance and physical working capacity in humans.  No side effects were found.1

In a 2004 Italian study, 20 elderly human subjects were treated with Eleuthero.  After 4 weeks of therapy, aspects of mental health and social functioning were improved.  The study noted no significant side effects.2

The former Soviet Union conducted several trials to study the effects of Eleuthero during the 1960s.  These studies tested thousands of subjects.  Among the results, Russian health researcher, I.I. Brekhman examined the effects of Eleuthero on depression and mood and concluded that it was equal to that of traditional ginseng.3

Soviet researchers also found improvements in physical performance, and mental accuracy, speed and precision.  Fewer respiratory tract infections were noted for subjects who ingested Eleuthero in a consistent period.  Enhanced stamina, mental concentration and acuity were also noted in other Soviet studies, as well as increased toleration to extreme conditions.4

In three different human studies Eleuthero was shown to have been successfully used to treat bone marrow suppression.5-7

In a German study, T lymphocytes were increased in a study where subjects were treated with an Eleutherococcus preparation, 3 times daily for 4 weeks. No side effects were noted after 6 months.8

Studies using rats found Eleutherococcus senticosus to have significant antidepressant effects.9-10

Safety of Eleuthero

Minimal side effects have been noted following the use of Eleuthero.11

The use of Eleuthero should be discontinued immediately if symptoms such as breathing problems, tightness in throat or chest, chest pain, or skin conditions appear.  Eleuthero may cause mild stomach upset.  It is not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure. Those taking medication for blood pressure may be required to reduce their need for medication as Eleuthero may reduce the need.

Eleuthero may cause insomnia in some people.  In some cases, individuals have reported nervousness or restlessness.

Avoid taking Eleuthero while pregnant.

Dosage of Eleuthero Root

Individuals should avoid any formulation that exceeds 900 milligrams daily as this can cause insomnia, irritability, nervousness, and anxiety.

References:

1. Panossian A, Wagner H., Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res. 2005 Oct;19(10):819-38., Swedish Herbal Institute, Viktor Rydbergsgatan 10, SE-411 32 Gothenburg, Sweden.

2. Cicero AF, Derosa G, Brillante R, Bernardi R, Nascetti S, Gaddi A., Effects of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus maxim.) on elderly quality of life: a randomized clinical trial., Arch Gerontol Geriatr Suppl. 2004;(9):69-73., Atherosclerosis and Dysmetabolic Diseases Study Center G. Descovich, Clinical Medicine and Applied Biotechnology Department D. Campanacci, University of Bologna, I-40138 Bologna, Italy.

3. Brekhman, I.I., in The symposium on Eleutheroccocus and ginseng. The Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, U.S.S.R., 1962.

4. Brekhman, supra.

5. Halstead B, Hood L (1984). Eleutherococcus senticosis–Siberian Ginseng, OHAI. p.7.

6. Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Art of Medicine Press, City of Industry, CA 2004.

7. Winston, David., Native American, Chinese, and Ayurvedic Materia Medica, HTSBM, pp. 1-1.

8. Bohn B, Nebe CT, Birr C., Flow-cytometric studies with eleutherococcus senticosus extract as an immunomodulatory agent., Arzneimittelforschung. 1987 Oct;37(10):1193-6., Orpegen Medizinisch-Molekularbiologische Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Heidelberg, Fed. Rep. of Germany.

9. V. A. Kurkin et al.. “Antidepressant activity of some phytopharmaceuticals and phenylpropanoids”. Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal. http://www.springerlink.com/content/t6512435001n1418/. Retrieved 2008-03-04.

10. “Constituents and pharmacological effects of Eucomm Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2001 – PubMed Result”. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez. Retrieved 2008-03-05.

11. Bohn B, Nebe CT, Birr C., Flow-cytometric studies with eleutherococcus senticosus extract as an immunomodulatory agent., Arzneimittelforschung. 1987 Oct;37(10):1193-6., Orpegen Medizinisch-Molekularbiologische Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Heidelberg, Fed. Rep. of Germany.