SIBERIAN ELEUTHERO ROOT BARK (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Latin: Eleutherococcus senticosus                   photo

WHAT IT DOES: Siberian eleuthero (formerly called Siberian ginseng) is sweet and slightly pungent in taste, and neutral in action.  It nourishes the adrenal glands, supports liver metabolism and increases energy and endurance against stress and pollution.


SAFETY ISSUES: None known.  Occasionally it may over-stimulate some people, or slightly raise blood pressure.

• Powdered 5:1 extract: 500-100 mg two to three times per day
• 1:2 tincture: 30 drops three times per day.

Siberian eleuthero is the herb for which the word adaptogen was coined.  It is one of the medicines we use most frequently in the clinic, because it really helps fight many forms of fatigue.  It increases general vitality, strength, endurance and the ability to overcome the effects of long-term illness. It strengthens the immune system.  We prefer it to ginseng root in sensitive individuals who may find the stronger herb too hot or overly stimulating to the nervous system. In spite of this, some people still find it too stimulating, in which case I use calming tonics such as Ashwagandha root. Many patients find eleuthero used over time gives a general sense of well being and an increase in libido. It often provides much needed energy for people with chronic fatigue, Epstein Barr virus, but only after underlying issues such as dysbiosis are addressed. It is also been found clinically to be useful for ADHD in children.

Siberian eleuthero has been shown to delay stress reactions during the alarm phase of stress.  When we are alarmed, our adrenal glands release corticosteroids and adrenaline that trigger the fight or flight reaction.  If these hormones are depleted by short- or long-term stress, we develop adrenal fatigue or exhaustion.  Siberian eleuthero delays the onset of the exhaustive phase by causing a more efficient release of these hormones into our system (Pearce et al., 1982; Brunner et al., 1990; Fulder, 1980; reported in Farnsworth, 1989).  It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and for this reason can reduce cravings for sweets and assist in weight loss programs where stress eating or low blood sugars cause excessive eating.

Several negative studies have been published since the original Russian research (Lewis et al., 1983, Dowling et al.  1996).  However, my own personal experience and that of my patients shows Siberian ginseng to be very effective in a majority of those who take it.  I have spoken with suppliers, and they tell me that much of the Siberian eleuthero used in America is made from the whole root (only 1/10th as strong), while the original Russian studies were performed using the root bark.  When you find a good supply such as the supplier I use, the results should be immediately obvious. Consistent personal or clinical results always trump poorly designed scientific studies.

Research Highlights

• In a placebo-controlled study of the effects of a Siberian eleuthero extract on the immune system of healthy individuals, researchers reported “a drastic increase in the absolute number of immunocompetent cells, with an especially pronounced effect on T lymphocytes.” In addition, they observed a general enhancement of the activation state in T-lymphocytes (Bohn et al., 1987).

• According to translations of original Russian research, Siberian eleuthero has the ability to increase our endurance and capacity to work by improving the ability of the liver and adrenals to regulate hormonal levels, dispose of lactic acid, and regulate blood sugar (reported in Farnsworth et al., 1989).

• Russian telegraph operator were able to increase the number of messages they could handle by taking about 60 drops of a Siberian eleuthero tincture daily (reported in Farnsworth et al., 1989).

• Factory workers taking about 60 drops of a Siberian eleuthero tincture daily recorded a 50% reduction in illness and a 40% reduction in lost work days (reported in Farnsworth et al., 1989).