Botanical Name:Eleutherococcus senticosus (formerly Acanthopanax senticosus)
Species: E. senticosus
Habitat:It is native to Northeastern Asia. Eleuthero is a shrub that grows in Siberia, China, Korea, and Japan.In Chinese medicine it is known as cì wu jia
Common names: Siberian ginseng, Ci wu jia, Touch-me-not, Devil’s shrub,devil’s shrub, devil’s root, touch-me-not
Description :The herb grows in mixed and coniferous mountain forests, forming low undergrowth or is found in groups in thickets and edges. E. senticosus is sometimes found in oak groves at the foot of cliffs, very rarely in high forest riparian woodland. Its native habitat is East Asia, China, Japan and Russia. E. senticosus is broadly tolerant of soils, growing in sandy, loamy and heavy clay soils with acid, neutral or alkaline chemistry and including soils of low nutritional value. It can tolerate sun or dappled shade and some degree of pollution. E. senticosus is a decidious shrub growing to 2m at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 3. It flowers in July in most habitats. The flowers are hermaphrodite and are pollinated by insect.
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The dried root and other underground parts of the plant are used in herbal remedies for a variety of conditions. It is a distant relative of true (Panax) ginseng (which includes Asian ginseng and American ginseng), but it does not belong to the Panax group of herbs. Previously sold in the United States as “Siberian ginseng,” a 2002 United States law forbade the “ginseng” label, and the name “eleuthero” is now more commonly used.
Active Constituents:The constituents in eleuthero that have been most studied are the eleutherosides.1 Seven primary eleutherosides have been identified, with most of the research attention focusing on eleutherosides B and E.2 Eleuthero also contains complex polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules).3 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
E. senticosus is an adaptogen which has a wide range of health benefits attributed to its use. Currently, most of the research to support the medicinal use of E. senticosus is in Russian or Korean. E. senticosus contains eleutherosides, triterpenoid saponins which are lipophilic and which can fit into hormone receptors. Supporters of E. senticosus as medicine claim it possesses a variety of medicinal properties, such as:
Eleutherococcus senticosis is more tonifying than the true Ginsengs (Panax sp.) It is neutral energetically and so is appropriate for daily use. Taken regularly, it enhances immune function, decreases cortisol levels and inflammatory response, and it promotes improved cognitive and physical performance. In human studies Eleuthero has been successfully used to treat bone marrow suppression caused by chemotherapy or radiation, angina, hypercholesterolemia, and neurasthenia with headache, insomnia, and poor appetite.
The major constituents of E. senticosus are Ciwujianoside A-E, Eleutheroside B (Syringin), Eleutherosides A-M, Friedelin and Isofraxidin.[unreliable source?] Most of the active constituents in E. senticosus are triterpenoid saponins. Though all terpenoid compounds have bioactivity in mammals, it is the triterpenes that are most important to the adaptogenic effect. The majority of known triterpenoid compounds in E. senticosus are found as saponin glycosides which refers to the attachment of various sugar molecules to the triterpene unit. These sugars are usually cleaved off in the gut by bacteria, allowing the aglycone (triterpene) to be absorbed. Saponin glycosides have the characteristic of reducing surface tension of water and will strip the lipids. This allows them insert into cell membranes (Attele et al., 1999) and modify the composition, influence membrane fluidity, and potentially affect signaling by many ligands and cofactors.
Eleutherococcus senticosus has been shown to have significant antidepressant effects in rats
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.
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.6 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 may be useful as a preventive measure during the cold and flu season. However, it has not yet been specifically studied for this purpose. 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 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.13 Further human clinical trials are needed to confirm that eleuthero may be helpful for this disease.
Dosages: Dried, powdered root and rhizomes, 2–3 grams per day, are commonly used.14 Alternatively, 300–400 mg per day of concentrated solid extract standardized on eleutherosides B and E can be used, as can alcohol-based extracts, 8–10 ml in two to three divided dosages. Historically, eleuthero is taken continuously for six to eight weeks, followed by a one- to two-week break before resuming.
Side Effects:Reported side effects have been minimal with use of eleuthero.15 Mild, transient diarrhea has been reported in a very small number of users. Eleuthero may cause insomnia in some people if taken too close to bedtime. Eleuthero is not recommended for people with uncontrolled high blood pressure. There are no known reasons to avoid eleuthero during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, pregnant or breast-feeding women should be aware that some products may be adulterated with herbs that should not be taken in pregnancy, such as Asian ginseng. Only eleuthero from a trusted source should be used.
In one case report, a person taking eleuthero with digoxin developed dangerously high serum digoxin levels.16 Although a clear relationship could not be established, it is wise for someone taking digoxin to seek the advise of a doctor before taking eleuthero.
Certain medicines may interact with eleuthero. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
*People with medicated high blood pressure should consult their doctor before taking E. senticosus as it may reduce their need for medication.
*E. senticosus may cause light sleep in some people, principally those who are “wired”. Users are recommended not to take it in the evening.
*E. senticosus will enhance the effectiveness of mycin class antibiotics.
*E. senticosus when purchased from non-GMP sources has occasionally been adulterated with Periploca graeca which can potentiate digoxin or similar drugs: however this is not an interaction of E. senticosus
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Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider