Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as Siberian ginseng, is considered an adaptogen in traditional medicine, meaning it regulates physiology and helps combat physical or psychological stress.
For thousands of years, eleuthero has been used in oriental folk medicine for beneficial effects on physical and mental stress, fatigue, chronic bronchitis, ischemic heart disease, stomach ulcers and allergic reactions.
In empirical medicine, what are the benefits of using eleuthero? Are there any side effects or contraindications? See text analysis for details
What is Eleutherococcus senticosus?
Eleutherococcus senticosus is a medicinal plant originating from the cold coniferous forest areas of East Asia (such as China, Russia, Japan), and is the same quincosis as the common ginseng and American ginseng, but the medicinal properties are slightly different
The main active ingredients are generally saponins, lignans, polysaccharides, flavonolic acids, triterpene acids and anthocyanins, and the leaves are classified as food and are also used for tea, soup, wine and other purposes.
The root and stem tissues of eleuthero cortex are often made into tinctures or capsules, which have a variety of pharmacological effects, including anti-fatigue, improved learning, vitality, anti-inflammatory, immune and antidepressant effects, and neuroprotection, but up to now, there is still not much relevant scientific literature.
What are the proven efficacy benefits of eleuthero?
1. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial for upper respiratory tract infections
Upper respiratory tract infection, or common cold, is a complex symptom that is usually caused by multiple families of viruses, including rhinovirus, coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, human metapneumovirus, and influenza virus.
Treatment focuses on reducing symptoms such as fever, nasal congestion, and cough, and common drug ingredients include first-generation antihistamines, antipyretics, anti-inflammatory drugs, cough suppressants, expectorants, and decongestants.
A systematic review (four randomized controlled trials) suggests that andrographis plus eleuthero extract may be an appropriate alternative treatment for uncomplicated acute upper respiratory tract infection. Note 1
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (5-day, 177 patients with acute upper respiratory tract infection) showed that oral liquid combination (brand Kan Jang) containing eleuthero extract had better antitussive efficacy than placebo and antitussive expectorant bromhexine. Note 2
*Conclusion: Compound extract containing eleuthero may be helpful in alleviating upper respiratory tract infections. However, more research is needed to confirm whether it is effective alone
2. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial for cognitive function
As portable media devices such as smartphones become more common in our lives, they are also increasingly capable of assisting or even replacing various cognitive functions, as phone books, appointment calendars, Internet portals, calculators, maps, game devices, etc., which seem to perform almost unlimited cognitive activities for us and meet many of our emotional needs.
But relying on smartphones and related technologies doesn’t help our cognitive function, instead, negatively affects our ability to think, remember, pay attention, and regulate emotions.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 healthy women aged 20 to 68 years found that ADAPT-232 extract (containing Rhodiola, Schisandra, and Eleutherococcus senticosus) improved attention, speed, and accuracy during stressful states compared with placebo. Note 3
*Conclusion: Eleutherococcus senticosus may be helpful in improving cognitive function, but more research is needed to confirm its benefits alone
3. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial for athletic performance
Numerous studies conducted over the past 40 to 50 years have consistently shown that carbohydrates are the main macronutrients that maintain and improve physical function.
Carbohydrate intake provides athletes with a fuel matrix to enhance athletic performance and support the immune system to increase the bioavailability of other supplements, such as protein supplements.
A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study (8 weeks in nine men on cycling) noted that oral eleuthero increased endurance, improved cardiovascular function, and altered glycogen metabolism. Note 4
*Conclusion: Eleutherococcus senticosus may be helpful in improving athletic performance, but more studies are needed to support this due to small sample sizes
4. Eleutherococcus senticosus has osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by osteopenia and degeneration of bone tissue microstructures, resulting in reduced bone tone and strength and an increased risk of fragile fractures.
Proximal hip fractures, which account for about 20% of all osteoporotic fractures, are the most destructive fractures, with hip fractures associated with an additional mortality rate of 8% to 36% over a year, with mortality higher in men than in women.
A randomized controlled trial (6 months, 81 women with postmenopausal osteoporosis or osteopenia) noted that taking eleuthero extract plus calcium tablets increased serum osteocalcin levels (but no significant change in bone mineral density) compared with a control group using calcium tablets. Note 5
*Conclusion: Eleutherococcus senticosus may have a positive effect on bone metabolism, but more long-term studies are needed to confirm its clinical benefit
5. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial for knee osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that involves cartilage and its surrounding tissues. In addition to damage and loss of articular cartilage, there is remodeling of the subarticular bone, formation of osteophytes, relaxation of ligaments, weakening of the muscles around the joints, and in some cases inflammation of the synovium.
The main symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility, and disease progression is usually slow but eventually leads to joint failure.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (7 weeks in 57 patients with knee osteoarthritis) showed that an anti-inflammatory factor formula (containing eleuthero, Panax notoginseng, and Rehmania) helped improve pain and knee function (as measured by visual analogue scores VAS and K-WOMAC scales). Note 6
*Conclusion: Herbal combinations containing eleuthero may be helpful in improving knee osteoarthritis, but more research is needed to confirm the clinical benefits of use alone
6. Eleutherococcus senticosus improves hangovers
One of the most common adverse consequences of drinking alcohol is hangover, which by definition begins once the blood alcohol concentration returns to zero, characterized by a general feeling of distress that lasts for 24 hours.
Alcohol-induced hangovers, defined by a range of symptoms, several including headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, thirst, dizziness, nausea, cognitive impairment, and mood changes.
Alcohol-based hangovers can cause employee absenteeism, poor work performance, reduced productivity, poor academic performance, and can also jeopardize daily activities such as driving or operating heavy machinery.
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover trial noted that eleuthero extract, while not helpful in alcohol metabolism, improved scores on several severe hangover scale items (tiredness, headache, dizziness, stomach pain, nausea) and acute hangover scales. Note 7
*Conclusion: Eleuthero extract may be helpful in improving hangovers, but more research is needed to support this
7. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial to familial Mediterranean fever
Familial Mediterranean Fever is an inherited autoinflammatory disorder characterized by acute fever and serosal inflammation, affecting people of Eastern Mediterranean descent (common among Jews, Armenians, Turks, and Arabs).
The disease is associated with mutations in the MEFV gene encoding pyrin, which exacerbates the inflammatory response through the uncontrolled production of interleukins.
Untreated or inadequately treated patients are at risk of amyloidosis, an important cause of morbidity and mortality.
A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study (1 month in 24 patients with familial Mediterranean fever) showed that the ImmunoGuard formula (containing eleuthero, andrographis, schisandra, and licorice light) helped improve symptom duration, frequency, and severity of symptoms. Note 8
*Conclusion: Herbal combinations containing eleuthero may be helpful in improving familial Mediterranean fever, but more research is needed to confirm the benefits of use alone
8. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial for bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is a severe mental symptom that recurs extremely high and causes disability, often with periodic high or low mood.
The main symptoms include excessive mania, increased activity, risk-taking behavior, impulsive performance, etc., as well as severe depression symptoms in the depressed period, if not treated, which not only cause impaired life functions, but also increase the rate of self-injury and suicide, causing heavy family social burden.
A double-blind controlled study (6-week, 76 adolescents with bipolar disorder) compared the treatment effects of group A: eleuthero plus with lithium and group B: fluoxetine plus lithium salt. Note 9
The results showed that the response rate and remission rate of the two groups had similar results, 67.6% vs 71.8% and 51.4% vs 48.7%, respectively, while the adverse reactions were less in group A with eleuthero and better tolerated.
*Conclusion: Eleuthero with lithium may be helpful in improving bipolar disorder, but more research is needed to confirm the benefits of use alone
9. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial for chronic fatigue
Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by severe fatigue for no reason, without any underlying physical condition, which cannot be improved even with rest.
Although the cause is unknown, the medical community believes that it may be related to viral infections or psychological stress, and may be caused by a variety of factors, with millions of people in the United States alone affecting the disease, twice as common in women as men (common after age 2), and most of them undiagnosed.
A controlled study (2 months, including 96 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome) may have a partial relief effect on mild fatigue from taking eleuthero, but the experimental design is not precise enough and the sample size is too small, more studies are needed to further verify. Note 10
10. Eleutherococcus senticosus is beneficial to the quality of life of the elderly
Due to the improvement of medical standards and the decline in birth rate, most advanced countries are facing the phenomenon of aging population, and with the increase of the elderly population, followed by chronic diseases of the elderly and an increase in the demand for elderly care.
In the care of the elderly, the promotion of healthy life is an important concept, which refers to the implementation of a healthy lifestyle for the elderly with chronic diseases, although it cannot immediately cure the disease, but can reduce symptoms, increase the adaptability of body, mind and soul, and reduce the resistance of the aging process.
A small, double-blind controlled study (8 weeks, 20 older adults) found that eleuthero helped improve scores on mental health and social functioning (70% of the eleuthero group thought prescription was effective, compared with 20% in the placebo group, but the difference between the two groups gradually decreased after continued use). Note 11
11. Eleutherococcus senticosus beneficial blood lipid problem – cholesterol
Blood lipids in the blood are roughly divided into two types, namely cholesterol and triglycerides, when one of the two is too high, it is collectively called hyperlipidemia.
Cholesterol is a white waxy substance, which is an important substance for cell membrane structure and physiological function, and when the amount is too large, it is easy to accumulate in blood vessels, causing vascular-related lesions.
Most people only care about the total amount of cholesterol during health checkups, in fact, the ratio of low-density and high-density cholesterol is also very important, if the ratio of the two is greater than 3.5, it will greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A controlled study (6 months, 40 postmenopausal women) found that eleuthero (with calcium tablets) helped reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and LDL/HDL ratio, in addition to improved oxidative stress and lymphocyte DNA damage. Note 12
Are there any side effects of eleuthero?
Eleutherococcus senticosus is very safe for most adults by oral administration in the short term, but possible side effects or adverse reactions that have been reported include: irritability, heart rhythm changes, headache, anxiety, muscle cramps, insomnia, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, gastrointestinal discomfort, urticaria, nausea, drowsiness, etc., and too high a dose may raise blood pressure
1. Do not use if you have been allergic to plants of Eleutherococcus senticosus or Araliaceae, which may induce allergic reactions
2. Do not use for those with poor coagulation function, taking anticoagulant drugs and two weeks before surgery (because eleuthero has anticoagulant effect, which may cause bruising or bleeding), the relevant drug names are: Aspirin, clopidogrel, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, dalteparin (dalteparin sodium), Enoxaparin, heparin, warfarin
3. Do not use with herbal health ingredients that may affect blood clotting function, common red curve, ginkgo biloba, garlic and saw palmetto
4. Do not use if pregnant women, lactating women, children, liver and kidney dysfunction (related safety unknown)
5. Patients with autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, xerosiosus, Crohn’s disease, etc.) should be used with caution, because eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) may have the effect of enhancing immunity.
6. Do not combine with sedatives, antidepressants, barbiturates, corticosteroids, anesthetics, immunosuppressants, foxglove, diabetes, lithium and other drugs (may interfere with the effect of the drug and cause adverse reactions)
7. Use with caution if you have symptoms of mania or schizophrenia (may worsen symptoms)
8. Be careful if you have estrogen-sensitive diseases, such as uterine cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids (some components of eleuthero may have estrogen-like effects, which may worsen symptoms)
9. Excessive doses may cause abnormal heart rhythm and blood pressure, so patients with heart disease (such as arteriosclerosis, rheumatic heart disease or history of heart attack) should use with caution or under the supervision of a doctor
10. Diabetic patients or taking hypoglycemic drugs please use carefully, because it may affect blood sugar control, please monitor blood sugar regularly, the relevant drug names are: glimepiride, glyburide, insulin, pioglitazone, rosiglitazone, chlorpropamide, Glipizide, tolbutamide (methanin).
11. Do not use if you are taking high blood pressure drugs or those with abnormal blood pressure values (too high or too low), as this may worsen symptoms
12. Do not combine with alcoholic beverages, as this may cause increased drowsiness caused by alcohol
13. Do not use in combination with the treatment drug Digoxin for atrial fibrillation and heart failure, which may affect the efficacy of the drug
14. Do not combine with psychiatric medications, such as clonazepam, lorazepam (clonodiazepam), phenobarbital, zolpidem, lithium or SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor), which may affect the efficacy of the drug
15. Do not use it in combination with drugs that need to be metabolized by hepatic cytochrome P450 enzyme system, which may affect the efficacy of drugs or increase the side effects of drugs, and the relevant drug names are as follows:
Clozapine, cyclobenzaprine, fluvoxamine, haloperidol, imipramine, amitriptyline, clozapine, codeine, desipramine, donepezil
Fentanyl, Flecainide, Fluoxetine, Meperidine, Methadone, Metoprolol, Olanzapine, Ondansetron, Trazodol, Trazodone
Lovastatin, Ketoconazole, Itraconazole, Fexofenadine, Triazolam, Mexiletine, Olanzapine, PentazoOsine, Propranolol, Takrine
Theophylline, Zileuton, Zolmitriptan, Amitriptyline, Diazepam, Celecoxib, Irbesartan, Losartan, Phenytoin, Piroxicam, tamoxifen, tolbutamide (methylene glycene), torsemide
16. Do not combine with radiation therapy as Siberian ginseng may have photosensitizing effects.