Eleutherococcus

Scientific names: Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. et Maxim.) Maxim. Family: Araliaceae

Common names: Siberian ginseng, Devil's shrub, eleuthero, shigoka, touch-me-not, wild pepper, Kan Jang

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Eleutherococcus?

E. senticosus belongs to the same family as Panax ginseng, or “true ginseng”. The geographical distribution of the eleutherococcus shrub is adjacent to the distribution of P. ginseng. Eleutherococcus is found in forests at elevations of up to 800 m or more above sea level. Male plants produce violet flowers, while female plants have yellowish flowers; the fruits are black, oval berries. Most commonly, the root is used in herbal medicine. However, it was found that leaves and berries also have medical value. Because it grows abundantly in areas such as Russia and China, it has become a popular substitute for ginseng.

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What is it used for?

Eleutherococcus is similar to common ginseng in its properties and alleged effects; however, documentation is limited. Extracts of the root have been used for a wide variety of therapeutic purposes and are said to have an adaptogenic effect. It exhibits cardiovascular as well as mood- and energy-enhancing effects.

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Eleutherococcus has been studied extensively in Russia. It is used as a health food in China, but Asian folk medicine largely has ignored eleutherococcus in favor of its relative, ginseng. As with ginseng, root extracts of the plant have been promoted as “adaptogens” that aid the body in responding to external (eg, environmental) and internal (eg, a disease) stress. The plant extracts have been used to normalize high or low blood pressure, to stimulate the immune system, and to increase work capacity. Reputed effects include increasing body energy levels, protection from motion sickness and against toxins, control of alloxan-induced diabetes, reduction of tumors, and control of atherosclerosis.

What is the recommended dosage?

As an adaptogen, eleutherococcus has been given as powdered root in doses of 1 to 4 grams per day.

Eleutheroside compounds have 30 to 150 times the physiologic activity of the roots from which they are extracted. Concentrated extracts of E. senticosus are recommended to be taken at doses of no more than 1 gram per day.

Use in elderly patients and children has been studied to a limited extent.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Information is lacking. Patients with a damaged immune system, who are running a fever, or have heart conditions or diabetes should not use eleutherococcus.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and effectiveness during pregnancy and lactation is lacking; however, because of a potential effect on developing muscle cells, Siberian ginseng should not be used during pregnancy.

Interactions

Herb-drug interactions with digoxin and hexobarbital have been described. Mechanisms for interaction are not established.

Side Effects

Adverse reactions, toxicity, contraindications, and warnings similar to those for Panax species apply.

High doses of eleutherococcus are associated with irritability, insomnia, and anxiety. In human trials, few adverse reactions are reported, but have included skin eruptions, headache, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and pericardial pain in rheumatic heart patients.

In a small study, Siberian ginseng demonstrated a blood sugar lowering effect in healthy adults. Caution should be used when given to diabetic patients. In other reports, adverse reactions have included slight languor or drowsiness immediately after administration, possibly due to lower blood sugar.

Toxicities

Use of eleutherococcus extract has been associated with little or no toxicity.

References

  1. Eleutherococcus. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2007. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 6, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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