Eleutherococcus senticosus
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What are Eleutherococcus senticosus?

Eleutherococcus senticosusis only distantly related to the true ginseng species ( Panax ginsengand P. quinquefolius) and possesses entirely different, unrelated chemical constituents. However, it is popularly called Russian or Siberian ginseng. The origin of this misnomer lies in the work of a Soviet scientist, I.I. Brekhman, who believed that eleutherococcus has the same properties as ginseng, and popularized it as a less-expensive alternative herb.

According to Brekhman, eleutherococcus and ginseng are both adaptogens . This term refers to a hypothetical treatment defined as follows: An adaptogen should help the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological...

If Brekhman is right, ginseng (whether Eleutherococcusor Panax) should be the right treatment for most of us. Modern life is tremendously stressful, and if an herb could help us withstand stress , it would be a useful herb indeed. Eleutherococcusis widely used for this purpose in Russia and Eastern Europe, and it is popular elsewhere as well. However, there is little meaningful evidence to support this theory. Existing evidence on the supposed adaptogenic properties falls far beneath current scientific standards. 1 Better quality studies have evaluated the potential usefulness of Eleutherococcusfor specific conditions. Most, however, have failed to find benefit.

In the one unquestionably positive study, a 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 93 men and...

Safety Issues

According to studies performed primarily in the former Soviet Union, Eleutherococcusappears to present a low order of toxicity in both the short- and long-term. Human trials have not resulted in any significant side effects. 2 Safety in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease is not known.

One report suggests that Eleutherococcusmay alter the results of a test for the medication digoxin. 3 However, it is not clear whether it was the Eleutherococcusor a contaminant (eg, digoxin mixed with the herb) that caused these problems.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • Digoxin : Eleutherococcus may interfere with blood tests designed to measure digoxin level.