Eleutherococcus senticosus (Acanthopanax senticosus) was once known as Siberian ginseng or the less common name, ciwujia. It is now illegal in the U.S. to market this herb with the previously associated name of “ginseng.” In 2002 a congressional amendment stated that the name “ginseng” be reserved for the genus Panax, though both belong to the Araliaceae family. Unlike the reputation associated with true ginseng, eleuthero is not considered a physical stimulant or sexual enhancer. However, a 2005 clinical trial showed that it increased sperm count when combined with another herb, so future research may reveal similar association.
The roots of eleuthero are the most common part used, though the leaves have some mild activity. This herb is well studied in Russia where it grows wild, though it is also native to East Asia and has been used in the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folk medicine traditions for centuries to promote overall health and increase resilience.
Eleuthero is one of the better-known and widely used adaptogens (plants that increase resistance to stress and improve overall health) and can be used for extended periods in most adults. It is commonly recommended for those who are weak, recovering from illness, or lack energy or stamina. Athletes use it to improve endurance and recovery time. It is helpful support for auto immune disorders such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other more common debilitating illnesses such as influenza — not surprising as it supports a healthy immune response. Eleuthero is also considered a cardiotonic, and helps to support healthy cholesterol levels and reduce allergic reactions. A 2010 study suggests that eleuthero may also encourage healthy bone density; it contains the flavonoid quercetin, shown to stimulate osteoblasts (bone building cells) and inhibit formation of osteoclasts (cells that break down bone tissue). Animal and in vitro research suggests it supports healthy brain function and cognition, though clinical studies are called for to thoroughly substantiate this claim.
Eleuthero has little to no known toxicity, but is not recommended for those with severe cases of high blood pressure, heart problems, or fever. Eleutherosides are considered the most “active” constituents and may be standardized in some products, but many holistic herbalists prefer to use a complete herb extract rather than one that isolates and increases single compounds. This useful plant is also combined in formulations with numerous other herbs as a synergistic agent to address a wider range of ailments.
Writer Mindy Green is a founding and professional member of the American Herbalists Guild and an advisory board member to the American Botanical Council, publisher of Herbal Gram Magazine. Ms. Green served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies (1995-2003). The California School of Herbal Studies is among Mindy’s business ventures as co-owner and a faculty member (1985-1995). She is a nationally certified Registered Aromatherapist and has served on the education committees of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists and the Aromatherapy Registration Council. She now runs her own consulting company, Green Scentsations, LLC.
A prolific writer and lecturer, Ms. Green has authored over 60 published articles on herbs, aromatherapy, skin care, holistic health and integrative care. She is co-author of Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide to the Healing Art; author of Calendula and Natural Perfumes, and has contributed to numerous books on herbs and healing. As a botanical-therapies expert, she has been interviewed more than 400 times by leading magazines and newspapers.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.