What is eleuthero?

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is an Asian herb. It’s been used for thousands of years as a healing remedy in folk medicine.

Eleuthero is also commonly called Siberian ginseng. However, this name was changed to “eleuthero” to avoid confusion with true ginseng, which includes Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).

That said, eleuthero is a relative of ginseng. It grows in the same Asian regions and has similar effects. But true ginsengs are more prized for their better-researched health effects. True ginseng is also much more expensive than eleuthero.

Today, eleuthero is sometimes used as a cheaper — though potentially less effective — ginseng replacement.

Eleuthero’s benefits are comparable to ginseng’s but considered less potent. People may take it as a tincture, tea, bulk herb, supplement capsule, or pill.

Herbalists and other natural practitioners call eleuthero an “adaptogen.” Adaptogens are botanicals thought to protect the body from the effects of stress.

People may take this herb for its notable physical effects. For example, some athletes use eleuthero to enhance athletic performance. Others take it to get through physically demanding work days.

Other uses of eleuthero include:

There are many studies of eleuthero, and many appear to support its numerous benefits. True to its adaptogen nature, research shows it can protect the body from various stresses as an antioxidant.

As for helping with emotional stress, anxiety, and depression, research is unclear. Many researchers believe that more studies are needed to know for sure what eleuthero does — and how.

One study showed that the herb boosted energy, metabolism, and physical performance in the study participants. It also had positive effects on their cardiovascular health, improving blood flow and pressure.

A few other studies lend strong evidence to support eleuthero’s other claims. For example, results of one study show the herb may have great antioxidant potential. An animal study reported promising immune-boosting properties. Another study found that eleuthero may help regulate blood sugar.

As for its impacts on stress, anxiety, and depression, a 2013 study found taking the herb resulted in little improvement. However, the doses used in the study were smaller than commercial doses, so the results may reflect that difference. Another study showed nerve-protective properties that could improve stress levels and mood. However, the study was done on animals, so more research is needed for humans.

Bottom line

Ultimately, the consensus is that more research is needed. Though trials so far are promising, more long-term human trials are necessary to shed more light on eleuthero’s exact health benefits.

Despite eleuthero’s uncertainty in research, the herb should be safe to use. Be sure to follow the recommended dosages.

If buying an herbal supplement or other preparation, make sure you’ve purchased eleuthero or Siberian ginseng, not true ginseng. Though related and somewhat similar, they are different herbs with different safety outlines.

No adverse effects have been noted when taking recommended amounts of eleuthero, though more studies are needed. Discontinue use if you experience discomfort of any sort.

Taking too much eleuthero may create unwanted side effects. Stop taking the herb if you start experiencing the following symptoms:

  • anxiety
  • depressed mood
  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • irritability

Some studies urge people with hypertension (high blood pressure) to avoid using eleuthero. However, a recent review of the herb found no evidence of it creating side effects in people with hypertension.

A word of caution

Herbs such as eleuthero are not monitored by the FDA for quality or purity, so buy it with caution. Avoid using eleuthero if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and avoid giving it to children under the age of 2 years. For older children, talk to their doctor before using.

People have used eleuthero for thousands of years for numerous health benefits. Talk to your doctor about eleuthero to see if it could be right for you. Follow the recommended dosage and you should be able to enjoy the herb’s all-natural, subtle health improvements for yourself. These could include better energy and antioxidant effects.