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Exploring the Health Benefits of Eleuthero: The Ancient Herb with Modern Uses

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Do you ever find yourself feeling tired and sluggish? You have optimized your vitamin D levels, take B complex with methylfolate and methylcobalamin twice a day, eat whole foods, lots of veggies, and reduced sweets…but you sometimes still feel drained. It might be time for some adaptogens, specifically eleuthero.

Eleuthero is also known as “Siberian Ginseng”, but it is not related to the ginseng family at all. It is a small, woody shrub that grows in Northeast Asia. The part of the plant used medicinally is the root, which contains unique compounds called eleutherosides.

Eleutherosides work as immune boosters to resist viruses. Their strong antiviral properties inhibit the replication of human rhinovirus (the common cold), RSV, and influenza. They also promote natural detoxification processed in the liver and contain antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress and damage by free oxygen radicals.

Eleutherosides also work as an anti-inflammatory. Some prescription anti-inflammatories work by blocking the COX-2 receptors (which is an enzyme involved in activating inflammatory pathways in the body). Eleuthero decreases expression of COX-2, so can help to reduce inflammation and specifically joint pain.

Eleutherosides have anticancer effects. These compounds can slow the progression of cancer and boost the immune system. Studies have shown a reduction in growth of liver and lung cancer cells. Eleutherosides also protect our cells from mutating (which is what leads to the overgrowth of cancer cells).

Eleuthero increases endurance and stamina, enhances mitochondrial activity, speeds recovery after exercising, and prevents immune depletion from excessive training. So, eleuthero is good for athletes to aid with recovery from strenuous routines.

With everything, there can be some side effects. Some people are very sensitive to eleuthero and can become overstimulated. Some eleuthero supplements can be contaminated with another plant known as Chinese silk vine (Periploca sepium), which contains cardiac glycosides (similar to a heart medication called digoxin). There were concerns about these adulterated products causing drug interactions with heart medications and other heart-related side effects. In fact, the US banned the term “Siberian ginseng” from being used for any supplements due to concerns about contamination and adulteration with Periploca sepium.

Besides eleutherosides, Eleuthero also contains triterpenoid saponins, coumarins, polysaccharides, flavonoid compounds, caffeic acid, and isofraxidin.

Triterpenoid saponins: possible benefits include lowering serum cholesterol levels, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties

Coumarins: help promote blood circulation, reduce/prevent the formation of blood clots, and reduce inflammation

Polysaccharides: reduce fatigue, maintain healthy blood sugar and blood pressure, support immune function, and maintain a healthy weight

Flavonoid compounds: antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, protect the body from toxins and stressors

Caffeic acid: reduce inflammation, reduce exercise-related fatigue, protect cells from mutation

Isofraxidin: good for brain health and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, etc.)

So, eleuthero can help with energy when you are feeling tired or sluggish. It can also help fight mental fatigue, improve concentration, and elevate mood. One to two grams of eleuthero per kilogram of body weight has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine (important neurotransmitters in the brain and gut).

It is recommended to use eleuthero at the changing of seasons or the first sign of illness to help boost the immune system. Athletes can also take it to help with the recovery period in training. Travelers can use it to reduce jet lag. Taking it in the morning or midday can help provide a boost of energy. I tend to have it in my morning cup of coffee (along with Ashwagandha) when I need a little boost.

Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?

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