Eleuthero (ELEUTHEROCOCCUS SENTICOSUS)
Though it's often called "Siberian ginseng," eleuthero is a completely different plant. Unlike ginseng, which grows 1 to 2 feet tall, this shrub can reach a height of lo feet. Because eleuthero grows so extensively in Russia, its folk claims were well examined by pioneer adaptogen researcher Israel Brekhman. "Eleuthero is the herb that defined adaptogens," says herbalist Christopher Hobbs. "Several years ago, I was run down and stressed out. I took eleuthero for six months and felt better. I was impressed."
INDICATION "Eleuthero is one of the top herbs I prescribe for chronic stress and stress-related conditions," says Hobbs. "Patients tell me it helps."
BENEFITS Increases energy, stamina, immune response, anti-viral action, liver support, osteoporosis protection, and cancer resistance * lowers cholesterol and blood sugar * normalizes heart rhythm * aids recovery from radiation exposure * enhances memory, visual acuity, and light perception * improves quality of life.
SIDE EFFECTS Reactions are uncommon, but may include drowsiness, anxiety, irritability, headache, and insomnia. Do not take eleuthero if you're pregnant, nursing, or have fever or vascular problems.
DOSAGE 0.6 to 3 grams a day of dry root for up to 1 month; or 2 to 16 mL of tincture I to 3 times a day for up to 60 days. (With formulas, follow package directions; to treat specific conditions, consult an herbal professional.)
SCIENCE Polish researchers have determined that eleuthero tincture (25 drops three times a day) enhances muscular use of oxygen, which improves fitness and stamina. And the herb eases the severity of chronic fatigue, according to a report from the University of Iowa. (Other studies have shown inconsistent results.)
Eleuthero extract also increases T-helper cells and important immune cells, according to German investigators. A study published in Antiviral Research documented eleuthero's "strong anti-viral" action, and Russian researchers found that children recovered from colds faster when given an herbal treatment with eleuthero. Two more Russian studies hint that eleuthero might boost immune response and survival rates among cancer patients, but additional research is needed.
The results are clear, however, when it comes to risk factors for heart disease. Eleuthero reduces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, according to a study in Phytotherapy Research, and helps prevent blood clots that can trigger heart attacks and strokes. In addition, the herb lowers blood sugar (protecting against diabetes) and may normalize heart rhythms, according to Russian and Polish studies.
Eleuthero continues to be more closely examined in Eastern Europe and Asia. Studies from Korea, Bulgaria, and the Vladivostok State Medical University in Russia, respectively, indicate eleuthero's value in protecting liver function, speeding recovery from radiation exposure, and equaling soy compounds in the treatment of osteoporosis. In addition, Russian studies have shown promising results for eleuthero's effect on short-term memory and on retinal sensitivity. And Italian scientists have noted better scores in mental health and social functioning among subjects taking eleuthero.