Eleuthero Historically, only the bark of the root was used medicinally, but today the rod, rhizome, stems, and leaves are used as well. Eleuthero is usually recommended by herbalists in situations when Panax ginseng, the more popular yet very harsh ginseng, would be considered too stimulating.
The use of various ginseng species dates back more than 4000 years. For centuries, Eleuthero has been used in Russian folkloric medicine as an immune-enhancing agent. In China, the whole root and rhizome is known as "ciwujia" and is reportedly used as a stimulant, tonic (to restore and invigorate), adaptogenic, and diuretic. It can also be used for lower back or kidney pain, lack of appetite, rheumatoid arthritis, disease resistance and other forms of adverse physical stress. In addition, the Chinese consider Eleuthero the best medicine for treating insomnia. They also believe that, when used regularly, it will increase longevity, improve general health, and restore memory.
An adaptagen is a substance which produces a nonspecific resistance in the body, a normalizing or stabilizing action. Dietary supplementation with Siberian ginseng has resulted in an increased ability to withstand adverse physical conditions (heat, noise, motion, workload increase, exercise). In one study, 13,000 workers at the Volga automobile plant were given daily doses of the herb. The overall disease incidence and absence from work was reduced by one third compared to a control group of workers. The tonic adaptogenic properties of Siberian ginseng are attributed to an interplay of its main constituents, including eleutherosides, panaxosides, ginsengosides, essential oils, carbohydrates, organic acids, amino acids, peptides, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes, and sterols, which are often able to normalize physiological imbalances.
Several scientific studies have reported the normalizing effects of Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero) upon body systems. Patients with various pathological conditions have improved when given ginseng. It has proven to stabilize high or low blood pressure. In experimentally-induced stressed rats, it increased swimming time, reduced activation of the adrenal cortex: in response to stress, and prevented stress-induced damage to the thymus and lymphatic system, increasing resistance to infection. In clinical trials designed for the evaluation of the adaptagenic effects of Siberian ginseng, it had the following effects: 1) increased mental alertness; 2) increased work output; and 3) increased quality of work produced under stressful conditions and athletic performance.
In an experiment with both hypotensive and hypertensive patients, treatment with ginseng caused the conditions of both groups of patients to return to normal. This is stated as evidence that Siberian ginseng yields normalization of pathological conditions regardless of the direction of change.
Eleutherococcus senticosus has proven through its free radical scavenging properties to be an effective antioxidant. In scientific studies it has proven to reduce occurrence of tumors. It has also been shown to help control atherosclerosis and has been able to lower toxicity of drugs.
The specific mechanism that causes Siberian ginseng's (Eleuthero) adaptogenic effect has not been identified, but different scientific studies suggest a synergism of contributing actions. It has proven to improve the body's balance between biogenic amines such as serotonin and melatonin. There is also evidence of an increase in helper T cells and natural killer cell activity in response to administration of the plant extract. Ginseng stimulates protein synthesis of cellular repair enzymes and reduces cholesterol biosynthesis in the liver as well
One of the more popular uses for Eleutherococcus senticosus is for treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is a disorder classified by fatigue, a decreased sense of well being, and a suppressed immune system. A cause for CFS has not yet been identified; however, many scientists believe the disease is a result of buildup of environmental toxins. The normalizing effects of Siberian ginseng help the body to combat the debilitating effects of CFS and protect the body from further degeneration.