If you type in Google “Siberian ginseng” you will definitely find thousands of sites devoted to this splendid herb. Today, everyone in European and Americans countries, even in Australia knows about its health effects. Moreover, many people now know it’s complicated botanical name – Eleutherococcus senticosus. But due to the wide use of the incorrect popular name “Siberian ginseng”, it is thought that Eleuthero is very close, even similar to the famous Panax ginseng, also named Korean ginseng. But this is not true. Eleutherococcus senticosus is quite different. This is a large branched bush which can be easily found in the Taiga forests in South-eastern Russia and North-eastern China. And Eleutherococcus has a lot of health benefits for human. For me personally, Eleutherococcus is one of the most helpful and safest remedies that help to cope or prevent many diseases.
I grew up in Vladivostok, a large city located on the very south-east of Russia. This is a very beautiful and friendly place with steep hills and warm turquoise sea. Besides its unique natural beauty, Vladivostok is famous because of the great research center. More than twenty research institutes of Russian Academy of Sciences are concentrated in one branch in Vladivostok area. And numerous research groups perform their studies focused on biological activity of marine species and taiga plants. This is the place where adaptogen herbs were discovered in mid of XX century. In 1960 professor Israil Brekhman working in one of these institutes have published his first work entitled "A New Medicinal Plant of the Family of Araliaceae -The Spiny Eleutherococcus" and then shortly the Eleutherococcus extract was approved by the Pharmacological Committee of the Ministry of Health of the USSR for clinical use as a "stimulant." That is when and where the history of adaptogen herbs as drugs had begun.
My farther being a young research fellow worked closely with the Breckman’s group. So, when I was a young boy and when I got sick my parents gave me a teaspoon with bitter liquid to drink. This was Eleutherococcus extract. It helped, indeed. Today, it is much more popular, especially, in the east of Russia. In Vladivostok, anyone can visit pharmacy store and buy a bottle of the eleutherococcus extract. And also, anyone can visit local market and buy wild eleutherococcus root and make an extract. Moreover, it is very easy to do a one-hour drive into a forest and pick up some fresh root using only a shovel. That is why it is so popular in this region.
In my research career with my colleagues we experimented with eleutherococcus a lot. We tested various conditions for extract preparation, we determined amounts of active compounds named eleutherosides in roots and extracts, we tested their efficacy in mice and rats. I worked with researchers from former Brekhman’s group and we have found out what effects are specific of eleutherococcus and what are not.
I can definitely say that there is nothing mysterious about eleuthero activity. There are several effects that were proved through experimental animal studies.
1. Eleutherococcus enhances resistance to viral infections and helps to prevent influenza and other respiratory infections.
2. It potentiates the work of immune system activating production of specific antibodies.
3. Eleutherococcus can boost central nervous system and improve mental activity. It can even reduce signs of neuroinflammation in brain, so it can slightly restore cognitive functions impaired by a disease, but it can’t cure it.
4. Eleutherococcus exerts tonic effect. It prevents lowering of blood pressure and, at the same time, does not rise it.
5. Influencing central nervous system eleutherococcus enhances physical stamina and endurance.
6. Eleutherococcus can help you in physical training as it optimizes energy metabolism and helps your muscles to work more effectively.
Today there are tons of information about health benefits of eleutherococcus and many of them are not correct. For example,
- Eleutheroccocus cannot heal any diseases except the ones strongly depending on immunity function of the body like influenza, for instance.
- This herb does not treat brain or heart diseases; it can’t cope with disorders in liver or pancreas.
- And of course, eleutherococcus does not treat tumors and even there is no evidence that it can reduce the risk of tumors.
It is very simple to understand that eleutherococcus does not act against bad factors like bacteria, or tumor cells, or toxicants, or organic tissue damages. It only makes the function of inner systems to be more effective. That is why eleutherococcus is much more helpful for prevention of diseases than for healing. Regular use of eleutherococcus makes the body stronger and younger and helps to keep this for a long time.
But for this, eleutherococcus extract must be fresh as eleutherosides are prone to degradation in time and extract should be prepared correctly. Incorrect use of solvent generally results in active compounds remaining in root and the final extract is just a bitter liquid with no health effects inside. Good eleutherococcus extract may be in a liquid form or it may be dry with no alcohol, so it can be used by teens, elderly persons and anyone who does not want to consume some harmful substances.
Eleutherococcus is not a mysterious remedy but very helpful herb for anyone who wants to be healthy, beauty, and strong.
Dr. Maksim Khotimchenko
Vladivostok (Russia) – San Diego (USA)