Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus Maxim.)

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus Maxim.)


Eleutherococcus senticosus is an oriental plant better known to most of us as Siberian ginseng. Preparations of the root are a familiar sight on the shelves of health-food stores and even pharmacies, where they are sold as an anti-stress remedy and general `pick-up' tonic; they are also used extensively by athletes to improve their performance. Though Eleutherococcus is generally thought of as a less potent, even inferior, version of Panax ginseng, closer examination reveals a character quite different from that of its Korean counterpart. The purpose of this study is to elucidate that unique character -- which has until now remained largely unknown to most Westerners -- through an overview of the scientific studies that have been performed on this herb.

Eleutherococcus senticosus has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, and has quite different indications within that system from Panax ginseng. However, along with another Eleutherococcus used in Chinese medicine (E. gracilistylus), it is considered to share with Panax the general property of being a `tonic', with the ability to increase sexual vitality. It is also thought to have sedative properties.

Its recent emergence in the West occurred as a response to the recognition of the medicinal value of Panax ginseng in Korea, China and Japan. Soviet scientists, in their search for a substitute for Panax, came across Eleutherococcus senticosus, a close relative of the former, similar in physical appearance, but much larger and less fussy in its choice of habitat.

Most of the scientific studies on this herb are from the USSR, where over a thousand have been carried out. Though many Westerners are sceptical about the validity of the Soviet research, the few studies that have been done elsewhere do in fact corroborate the Soviets' principal claims -- i.e. those relating to the `adaptogenic' properties of Eleutherococcus, and its ability to improve physical performance and endurance, and tolerance of stress.

The main activity of an adaptogen is to enable one's metabolism to adapt to and cope with unfavourable conditions, such as physical and psychological stress, infections, environmental pollutants, radiation and extreme climatic conditions. Eleutherococcus has been demonstrated to possess such activity, which implies that it will become an increasingly useful medicine, given the worsening environmental conditions that our species are creating on this planet.


Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. et Maxim.) Maxim. is a member of the family Araliaceae, which is thought to have close affinities with Cornaceae and Umbelliferae. The genus Eleutherococcus comprises some 30 species of trees and shrubs, most of which are prickly, and which are found in eastern Asia, the Himalayan region and Malaysia.

Eleutherococcus senticosus grows in an area stretching from the Shansi and Habay provinces of north-east China in the west to Sakhalin island and Japan in the east, including Manchuria and Korea.

Although the habitats of E. senticosus and Panax ginseng coincide, they are rarely, if ever, found growing in close proximity to one another. The former is not dissimilar in appearance to the latter but is larger, growing to a height of 4-6 metres. It is a prickly shrub, usually with several mostly unbranched stems, the oldest of which may be unarmed, while the youngest are densely covered with flexible prickles. The palmate leaves, on long, often reddish stalks, are usually composed of five elliptical leaflets with serrate margins.

The small polygamous flowers occur towards the tips of stems in single or paired umbels which have long peduncles. Floral parts are in fives, including the epigynous ovary surrounded by a nectar-secreting disc. The fruit, a drupe, contains the same number of kernels as carpels. Flower and fruit are not dissimilar to those of ivy (Hedera helix).


According to Soviet researchers the root contains glycosides, named eleutherosides, which are considered to be the principal active constituents responsible for the adaptogenic activity. There are seven main eleutherosides (A, B, B(1), C, D, E and F) and three minor ones (B(2), B(3) and B(4)):

- A: daucosterol (a steroidal saponin).

- B: syringin (4-á-glycoside of sinapic alcohol).

- B(1): 7-à-D-glycoside of isofraxidine (a - coumarin).

- C: ethyl-à-D-galactoside.

- D: di-á-D-glycoside (-) syringaresinol.

- E and F: as yet undefined.

The ratio of A:B:B(1):C:D:E has been shown to be typically about 2:10:traces:8:16:2 (in methanol extract) (Ovodov et al., 1967; Suprunov and Dzizenko, 1971; Dardymov and Khasina, 1972).)


Other constituents include: sugars, starch and pectin; volatile oils; anthocyans and other dyestuffs; vitamins C and E, and á-carotene; chlorogenic acid; and minerals (Ca, P, K, Mg, Na, AI, Ba, Fe, Sr, B, Cu, Zn, Cr and Ge).

Japanese researchers (Hikino et al., 1986) have also isolated two heteroxylans, as well as a number of glycans, named eleutherans A -- G: these are polysaccharides which have been demonstrated to possess significant hypoglycaemic activity.



The principal action of Eleutherococcus is as an `adaptogen', which means that it is an agent that increases the biological resistance of the body in the face of adverse conditions or unfavourable factors. This broadly descriptive term encompasses a complex variety of often very different specific actions, none of which in isolation can explain the overall effect of the herb, though all contribute to it. A few of the most important of these actions are:

- Immunostimulant: specifically T lymphocytes, their production of ç-interferon and activation of natural killer T cells and other components of the immune system.

- Anti-stressor: increases tolerance and endurance of stress, both physical and mental, as well as decreasing the incidence of the harmful side-effects of stress on the body.

- Prophylactic: has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of many acute and chronic illnesses when taken regularly for prolonged periods of time.

- Anti-toxic: increases the body's tolerance of many toxins of a chemical, biological and radioactive nature.

- Anti-vital: probably not a direct action, but one mediated via its activation of ç-interferon production.

- Hypoglycaemic: significantly reduces blood sugar in mice not under stress.

- Anti-hypertensive (if regularly taken for a prolonged period of time).


Reduction of Disease Incidence

Total Disease Incidence

Several experiments carried out in the Soviet Union during the 1970s appear to demonstrate that Eleutherococcus extract, given prophylactically, can reduce the overall disease incidence by up to 35% (Galanova, 1977; Shchezin et al., 1977; Kalashnikov, 1977).

Between 1973 and 1975, 1,200 drivers at an automobile plant were given 8-12 mg of Eleutherococcus extract with tea daily for two months annually, in spring and autumn. Controls were represented by other professions at the plant. After one year the percentage of sick workers in the control groups was unchanged, whereas in the group given Eleutherococcus the total disease incidence had decreased by 30% (Galanova, 1977).

At the same auto plant during November/December 1975, a mass pharmacoprophylaxis was carried out. 13,096 individuals were involved in experiments in which 2 ml of Eleutherococcus extract was taken daily in the diet. The total disease incidence at the end of the experiment had decreased by 30-50% in those who had been taking the extract, as compared to controls (Shchezin et al., 1977).

Influenza and Acute Respiratory Diseases

Clinical studies indicate that Eleutherococcus acts as an anti-influenzal agent when used prophylactically. This activity may be explained both by the adaptogenic properties of the extract, which indirectly enhances the body's resistance to vital infection, and by its ability directly to retard the growth of viruses (demonstrated in mammalian cell cultures by Wacker and Eilmes, 1978).

In a seven-year experiment in the USSR, it was shown that Eleutherococcus extract reduced the incidence of influenza in truck drivers by more than 90% over the total period of the experiment (Brekhman, 1980; Shchezin et al., 1977) (see table 1). In a further study, approximately 1,000 workers in a Soviet mining/smelting works received 22 ml of Eleutherococcus extract daily for two winter months. The incidence of acute respiratory diseases and influenza decreased by 2.4 times compared to a control group of workers working in the same conditions (Gagarin, 1977; Brekhman, 1977).



Essential Hypertension and Ischaemic Heart Disease

Eleutherococcus extract appears to prevent relapses in cases of essential hypertension and ischaemic heart disease when given prophylactically.

In the experiment carried out at the auto plant between 1973 and 1975 (Galanova, 1977), the incidence of essential hypertension and ischaemic heart disease and the influence of Eleutherococcus extracts on them were also monitored. The proportion of the control groups with these diseases at the start of the study was approximately the same as that of the experimental group before it began taking Eleutherococcus. By the end of the experiment the number of hypertensive drivers had been reduced by 3.5 times in those taking Eleutherococcus, and as a result manpower losses were 61% less than in 1973. The number of cases with exacerbation of ischaemic heart disease in 1973 was 6.7%. By 1978 it had dropped to 0.2% in those taking Eleutherococcus, and the number of disability days taken had been reduced from 282 in 1973 to 3 in 1978 (Shchezin et al., 1981).

Disease Incidence under Unfavourable Climatic Conditions

Eleutherococcus extract has been shown to be of value in reducing the disease incidence of individuals working under diverse unfavourable climatic conditions, for example in the tropics, at high altitudes and in the Arctic.

During long-term navigation in the tropics, where high temperature and humidity substantially restrict working capacity, seamen were given either extract of Eleutherococcus or a placebo. It was demonstrated that Eleutherococcus reduces unfavourable functional shifts on the part of the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and thermoregulation, promotes an increase in physical and mental working capacity, and improves visual analyser function (Berdyshev, 1977). Similarly, during work performed under Arctic conditions, it was found that the use of Eleutherococcus can substantially reduce disease incidence (Gagarin, 1977; Kalashnikov, 1977).

Improvement in Psycho-physical Performance and Endurance

Visual/Auditory Acuity and Colour Perception

In an experiment involving healthy young subjects with normal vision, visual acuity increased from 1.15-1.16 to 1.46-1.52 eight hours after intake of Eleutherococcus, and remained high (1.25) for 32 hours. It was also discovered that Eleutherococcus enhanced colour perception in both persons with normal colour vision and those who are colourblind (Sosnova, 1969). Other studies demonstrate relief from photophobia (Tikhomirova, 1977) and improvements in auditory acuity among those working at a constant noise level of 75 decibels (Brekhman, 1976).

Output per Man-hour

Work Requiring Concentration and Involving Nervous Tension

In an experiment in the USSR, telegraph operators aged 21-23 relayed a text continuously for five minutes. This was done twice -- once before and again one hour after ingestion of Eleutherococcus (2 ml in water). Controls received 2 ml of a placebo. No effect was produced on the number of characters relayed, but the number of errors was significantly reduced. This result was repeated in a second experiment with telegraph operators (Medvedev, 1963; Brekhman, 1980).

Manual Labour

A single-blind cross-over study carried out in Japan (using the same extract as in the Soviet experiments) showed a striking 23.3% increase in total work for Eleutherococcus, compared to a 7.5% increase for placebo. Maximal oxygen uptake, oxygen pulse and exhaustion time were also increased (Asano et al., 1986). The increase in total work may be attributable to the potentiation of cardiac function and the enhancement of oxygen metabolism, since the former is known to parallel an increase in oxygen pulse and the latter an increase in maximal oxygen uptake, both of which were observed in the experiment. Afanasjeva et al. (1985) recently reported an increase in the number of mitochondria in the heart muscle of rats fed Eleutherococcus, as well as an enhancement of energy metabolism.

Physical Endurance

The working capacity of mice was assessed by forcing them to climb along an endless cord until complete exhaustion. Eleutherococcus was administered one hour before the experiment.

At a dose of 2.5 ml/kg the animals' running time was significantly increased to approximately 72 minutes -- controls could only endure 52 minutes -- representing an increase of 38% in their working capacity. At a dose of 5 ml/kg the time was increased to 76 minutes (45%). However, a further increase in dosage to 7.5 ml/kg led to no further increase in the animals' working capacity or endurance (Kaplan et al., n.d.).

Anti-hypoxic and Anti-hyperthermal Activity

Seven-day prophylactic administration of Eleutherococcus extract at 2.5 ml/kg significantly lengthened the life-span of mice exposed to artificially induced acute hypobaric hypoxia (equivalent to being raised at a rate of 20 m/sec to an altitude of 10,000 m and then being kept there until death occurs from hypoxia). However, administration of single doses did not increase their resistance to acute hypobaric hypoxia. Similar results were obtained for mice subjected to temperatures of 50øC in a dry-air chamber (Kaplan et al., n.d.).

Increased Tolerance of Toxic Substances

Biological Toxins

The body's non-specific resistance of tetanus toxoid was studied in mice, 1 mg/kg of the toxin being injected intraperitoneally (Kaplan et al., n.d.). Eleutherococcus was given in a single dose of 2.5 ml/kg, administered 48 hours before injection of the toxoid, and its protective effect was evaluated from the number of mice surviving 24, 48, 72 and 96 hours after the injection. The results are shown in table 2.


Chemical Toxins

Positive results have been obtained in the application of adaptogens for reducing the toxicity of numerous chemical compounds, including many drugs.

Eleutherococcus was shown to decrease the sensitivity of mice and rats to the toxic action of cyclophosphamide, ethymidin and benzoteph. In treatment with cytostatics combined with Eleutherococcus, the animals lost less weight and their leucocyte count was higher than in animals given only cytostatics. In experiments on rats with Walker's carcinoma, 30% of the animals given ethymidin at 1.5 mg/kg died, whereas in the group also given Eleutherococcus all survived (Monakhov, 1967).

Eleutherococcus extract can reduce the narcotic effects of hexenal, hydrogen chloride, sodium barbital and ether. It may prove useful for prophylactic and therapeutic application in acute and chronic poisoning with some insecticides and industrial poisons (Elkin, 1981).

Other toxic chemicals tested included two respiratory poisons which provoke tissue hypoxia -- sodium nitroprusside (SNP) and malonic acid (Mikhailova and Fruentov, 1972; Mikhailova, 1972) -- and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors chlorofos (CF) (Elkin, 1981) and armine (AR) (Skvortsov and Khrapik, 1976). With SNP, malonic acid and CF there was a significant rise in the LD(50) dose after previous administration of Eleutherococcus, while with AR the effects of the poison were greatly slowed down but not inhibited. If Eleutherococcus was administered with CF the death rate was the same as for controls, but if it was given 30 minutes before the CF only 20% of the animals died, as compared to 73% of those receiving CF alone (Elkin, 1981).

Ionizing Radiation

It has been demonstrated that intraperitoneal injection of Eleutherococcus in irradiated mice, at a dosage of 3.5 ml/kg for seven days, exerts a moderate radioprotective action. At a dose of 450 R the survival rate of mice taking Eleutherococcus amounts to 20-30%, compared to a death rate in the control of 100%. As the radiation dose is raised, the protective efficacy declines, completely disappearing at a dose of 600 R (Kaplan et al., n.d.).

Increased Sexual Fertility

In experimental bulls given ground Eleutherococcus root in their feed, the volume of ejaculate increased by 21.4% over controls, and the concentration of their ejaculate spermatazoa rose by 10-35% (depending on the time of estimation). The same patterns were noted for the ejaculate of cocks! The number of eggs laid by hens fed Eleutherococcus for a month increased by 133%. There was a noticeable increase in the proportion of inseminated cows among those which were fed ground root of Eleutherococcus. Eleutherococcus extract was also found to stimulate mink fecundity (Lyaputsina, 1980).

Hypoglycaemic Activity

Because Panax ginseng exhibits hypoglycaemic activity, it was thought that Eleutherococcus might also possess this property, given the otherwise similar actions of these drugs. Japanese researchers isolated seven hypoglycaemic glycans (polysaccharides), named eleutherans A-G (Hikino et al., 1986). When these glycans were injected intraperitoneally into normal mice, significant dose-related hypoglycaemic activity was observed with all eleutherans except E. Among them eleutheran G exhibited the most intense effect. Although the difference in the potencies of these glycans is of interest, their structure-activity relationships have not yet been defined. I.p. administration of the main eleutheran, C, to mice in which hyperglycaemia had been induced by alloxan also lowered blood glucose levels (Hikino et al., 1986).


This is principally the pharmacology of the eleutherosides, which are considered to be the constituents responsible for the root's adaptogenic activity. Trease and Evans (1978) also mention a heteroxylan that has been demonstrated to possess adaptogenic activity.

Because of the general and non-specific nature of such activity, classical methods of pharmacological study, involving acute experiments on animals or isolated organs, have proved to be of little value and have so far yielded no substantial data explaining the wide range of Eleutherococcus' physiological actions. Soviet researchers have therefore focused their attention on the drug's regulatory effects on different body systems, effects that are accompanied by functional shifts.

Eleutherococcus extracts have been demonstrated in particular to increase the time for which an animal's muscles can work. Muscle work also appears to be attended by less loss of glycogen, creatine phosphate and protein nitrogen, whilst at the same time mobilization of lipids is increased (Dardymov, n.d.).

Soviet researchers chose the general adaptation syndrome of Selye, or basic stress reaction, as a model to test the activity of the root against. The general adaptation syndrome was considered appropriate not only because its stages are readily graded, and the functional changes that take place in them have been well studied, but also, more importantly, because any disease passes, to a certain extent, through one or more of these stages.

Effect of Eleutherococcus on the General Adaptation Syndrome

It has been demonstrated that 15 minutes after administration of Eleutherococcus to fasting rats, blood glycaemia increases, with a subsequent decrease in liver glycogen; the concentration of lactic and pyruvic acids in muscles, as well as oxygen consumption, also increases (Dardymov, n.d.). These facts show that Eleutherococcus activates glycolysis, apparently by a moderate adrenal-glucagon effect.

This effect, which is potentiated at the very beginning of the alarm reaction, seems to be linked to the permissive action of the drug with regard to the peripheral effects of adrenaline and ACTH (Dardymov, n.d.). It has also been shown that this adrenal-glucagon effect may be realized by activation of the adenylate cyclase system (Bezdetko et al., 1980).

At the height of adrenaline-induced hyperglycaemia or in the pronounced alarm reaction, Eleutherococcus produces an opposite effect, reducing blood sugar and preventing glycogen loss by the liver. After extended periods of stress, moreover, the concentration of blood corticosteroids increases only 2.5-fold for animals previously fed Eleutherococcus, as against threefold for controls (Dardymov, n.d.).

Following severe stress, the levels of cAMP and cGMP in the liver of rats fed Eleutherococcus were raised by 2 and 2-2.5 times respectively over controls. This reduction in the cAMP:cGMP ratio pre-determines the body's response to stress according to the `cholinergic' pattern, with the predominance of anabolic processes over catabolic ones.

Therefore, in the second phase of the functional load, when adrenal-glucagon reactions and reactions by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system exceed the optimal level, Eleutherococcus enhances insulin-like reactions (Dardymov, n.d.).

Immunological Activity

Another important aspect of the physiological activity and pharmacology of Eleutherococcus is its influence on the immunological responses of the body. Its activity in this respect appears to be both direct and indirect, both stimulating and regulating the immune system.

The directly stimulating affect appears to involve the activation of T lymphocytes by the eleutherosides. There is also, however, an indirect immuno-enhancing effect mediated via the glycosides' more non-specific anti-stressor activity -- it is well known that stress decreases the activity of the immune system, particularly that of natural killer T cells.

Eleutherococcus is an effective ç-interferon-inducer, immunomodulator and anti-viral agent (Zykov and Protasova, 1984; Kupin et al., 1984; Stewart, 1981; Wacker and Eilmes, 1978; Wacker, 1983; Wacker et al., 1984; Barenboim et al., 1984). ç-interferon is a potent immune-response regulator (Stewart, 1981), as well as a powerful activator of natural resistance cells -- e.g. NK cells and macrophages -- and augments the toxic effects of these cells, particularly against tumour cells. Researchers have observed an increase in membranotoxic (up to 200%) and cytostatic (up to 180%) activity of anti-neoplastic N K lymphocytes, together with a marked mitogenic (stimulation of cell division) effect in splenocytes and induction of the synthesis of ç-interferon by leucocytes. The glycosides responsible for the NK activation have been isolated. ç-interferon also regulates the reaction of lymphocytes and other cells with antibody- and complement-coated erythrocytes (Barenboim et al., 1984; Kupin et al., 1984).

The demonstrated effect of Eleutherococcus in activating ç-interferon production by lymphocytes could explain the stimulatory effect of the herb on the body's immune reactivity (Kupin et al., 1984).

Eleutheroside B

In experiments eleutheroside B has been shown to:

- stimulate hexokinase activity and suppress the inhibitory action of diabetic á-lipoprotein (from alloxan-treated rabbits) in vitro, at a concentration of 1 x 10 g/ml (Dardymov and Khasina, 1972);

- increase the time before complete fatigue in male mice in different stressful tests (Brekhman and Dardymov, 1971);

- produce, at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg, an anti-stressor effect in immobilized rats with reference to such indicators as weight of the adrenals, thymus, spleen and thyroid and content of vitamin C and cholesterol in the adrenals (Brekhman and Dardymov, 1971);

- increase the level of the androgenic reaction and the content of RNA in seminal vessels and prostate in rats (Dardymov, 1972);

- suppress, at a dose of 5 mg/kg, formation in the blood of a glucose inhibitor in animals exposed to stress (Dardymov and Khasina, 1977); and

- stimulate protein synthesis in early embryogenesis in sea urchins (Dardymov, 1976).


Soviet medical researchers have studied extensively the use of Eleutherococcus in the treatment of cancer, and the results of these studies are promising. The herb's diverse pharmacological properties make it a useful adjunct to conventional cancer treatments, enhancing their efficacy, reducing their side-effects and strengthening the body's own defences, and thus increasing the chances of the patient's survival and successful recovery.

It is known that the trauma of surgery causes immunosuppression owing to the degree of stress response that occurs (Jaremenko, 1981). In the case of surgery for removal of malignant tumours this may be disastrous, as metastases can spread and establish themselves virtually unimpeded. Eleutherococcus has been demonstrated to be of value here for two reasons. First, as an immunomodulator it prevents glucocorticoid immunosuppression by restricting excess production of glucocorticoids (though high levels have a suppressant effect, increased levels of glucocorticoids are in fact essential in the inductive stage of immunogenesis (Korneva et al., 1985)). Second, as an immunostimulant it directly stimulates the immune system via the activation of T cells, of ç-interferon production by lymphocytes and of anti-neoplastic natural killer T cells and macrophages.

Anti-stressor Action in Surgery

Experiments on mice and rats showed that tumour metastatic processes were augmented by stress factors, especially surgical trauma. The metastatic process was inhibited in groups of animals receiving Eleutherococcus. Among rats with Pliss lymphosarcomas, 49% of those not operated on developed metastases, compared to 78% operated on under anaesthesia, and 43% operated on under anaesthesia but concurrently given Eleutherococcus (Jaremenko, 1981).

In clinical trials on human subjects, carried out at the All-Union Cancer Research Centre of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences in 1981 by Tseitlin, Eleutherococcus extract was used to treat children with lymphogranulomatosis following splenectomy. Tseitlin showed that administration of Eleutherococcus extract before and after surgery reduces operative stress manifestations such as hyperglycaemia, hypoproteinaemia, lymphopenia and oliguria. The patients also exhibited enhanced resistance as exhibited by fewer expressed stress reactions, decreased tachycardia and increased concentration of blood leucocytes with phagocytic activity. Improved functioning of the adrenal cortex was observed during the operation.

Noteworthy is the fact that in the group tested no post-operative complications were recorded, whereas in the control group two children developed comissural ileus, requiring urgent surgical intervention, by the end of the first post-operative week (Tseitlin and Saltanov, 1981).

Anti-toxic Action in Chemotherapy

Extensive studies in animal models with transplantable tumours using various cytostatics have demonstrated that Eleutherococcus extract in combination with cytostatics in therapeutic doses reduces chemotherapeutic drug toxicity, particularly in respect to haemopoiesis, and enhances anti-tumour and anti-metastatic effects (Jaremenko, 1964, 1981, 1984; Tsyrlina, 1965; Monakhov, 1967).

At the Scientific Research Institute of Oncology in 1981, Nazarenko used Eleutherococcus extract in combination with thiophosphamide (a cytostatic) for treatment of patients with stomach carcinoma. Eleutherococcus extract promoted better toleration of medicinal drugs, allowing higher total chemotherapeutic doses to be given. Leucocyte counts recovered more quickly so that patients could receive a repeated chemotherapeutic course earlier. Moreover, the median survival of patients who had undergone subtotal stomach resection and were receiving thiophosphamide alone was 12 months, compared to 17 months for those taking Eleutherococcus as well (Brekhman, 1981).

Radio-protective Action in Radiotherapy

Clinical observations on the use of Eleutherococcus in mammary gland carcinoma patients are of interest. Following radiotherapy immune response indices either revealed no change or had risen slightly in patients receiving Eleutherococcus, in contrast to those receiving no drug, who showed a marked decrease in immune response indices (Kupin, n.d.).

In patients being treated for labial and oral cavity cancers, Eleutherococcus significantly improved general health status, appetite and sleep, while respiration, pulse and arterial pressure rapidly returned to normal, indicating a reduced adverse effect from the radiotherapy. After two years four control patients had had relapses and three had developed metastases, whereas neither relapses nor metastasis occurred in the Eleutherococcus experimental group (Khatiashvili, 1964, 1966).

Prophylactic Action in Cancer Therapy

Another important aspect of Eleutherococcus extract administration in oncology is its use for malignant neoplasm prevention. There is conclusive evidence of inhibition of the formation and development of malignant tumours in animals treated with carcinogens (urethane, DMBA) after inoculation with Eleutherococcus extracts (Dzhioev, 1964).

Immunostimulant Action in Cancer Therapy

When administered to melanoma and mammary gland carcinoma patients, Eleutherococcus enhanced general non-specific resistance, beneficially affected immune response indices, stimulated natural killer T-cell activity, elevated the number of T helper cells and reduced that oft suppressor cells. It proved neither toxic nor allergenic, and was safe in long-term administration (Kupin, n.d.). Stage 3 mammary carcinoma patients receiving radiotherapy in large fractions over four days showed a large decrease (40.2%) in their immune response indices, whereas those receiving Eleutherococcus showed an average increase of 14.45% (Kupin, n.d.).


The possibilities for using Eleutherococcus medicinally are myriad, given its wide range of pharmacological activity as an adaptogen. However, it has been shown to be of particular benefit in the following conditions:

- Stress-related illness: Eleutherococcus increases both physical and mental tolerance of stress.

- Influenza and acute respiratory diseases (as a prophylactic).

- Essential hypertension/ischaemic heart disease.

- Carcinoma (as an adjuvant and prophylactic).

-Possible Uses of Eleutherococcus

On the basis of research carried out, Eleutherococcus may be of benefit in the following:

- Viral infections, such as herpes simplex, herpes zoster and glandular fever.

- Myalgic encephalomyelitis.

- Acute and chronic poisoning.

- Infertility.

- Diabetes mellitus.

Eleutherococcus may also be of use in skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, in which stress can play a significant part.


According to the Soviet literature, most of the studies were carried out using an ethanol extract (33%) of Eleutherococcus. Analysis of this extract, originally imported from the USSR and obtained from Morinyu Laboratories in Tokyo, showed it to contain 75 mg per ml of soluble material from Eleutherococcus, including 0.53 mg of syringin (eleutheroside B) and 0.12 mg of syringaresinol diglucoside (eleutheroside D) (Asano et al., 1986; Wagner et al., 1982). Hikino et al. (1986) used a water extract in their studies on the hypoglycaemic activity of the eleutherans.

The dosages used in studies to determine prophylactic use of the root extract varied from as little as 0.5 ml every other day to as much as 22 ml per day. Although large doses appear not to be toxic, animal studies have shown Eleutherococcus to have an optimal dosage, the exceeding of which actually decreases the activity of the extract in the body (Kupin, n.d.). It is therefore recommended that patients be started on a low dose, i.e. 500 mg of powdered root, or its equivalent, three times a day; if no effect is noted after two weeks this can be increased to 1 g tds.


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Article copyright The British Journal of Phytotherapy.


By R.J. Collisson

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