Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) isn’t the most popular adaptogen, but a lot of people supplement with it in one form or another.
It has developed a reputation as a stress-reducer and anti-fatigue supplement, but many of the benefits have been heavily exaggerated by supplement companies that sell it.
Don’t get me wrong…
Eleuthero is a very interesting herbal supplement which can potentially provide several unique health benefits.
It’s just that many of these benefits have been twisted and warped due to poor interpretation of studies and, of course, omission of studies which failed.
As is the case with many herbal supplements, most of the claims made about Eleuthero are border-line false, but some of them are actually true.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Eleuthero, including what is, how it works, and whether or not many of the alleged benefits hold up in the eyes of science.
By the end, you’ll understand the difference between what Eleuthero actually does and what it might do.
Once you know the facts, you’ll be able to make the decision for yourself whether it’s worth supplementing with.
What Is Eleuthero?
Eleuthero, also known as Siberian Ginseng, is a type of shrub (Eleutherococcus senticosus) indigenous to Northeastern Asia.
It is considered an ‘adaptogen’.
Adaptogens are compounds (usually herbal supplements) which reduce the impact of stress on the body, either mentally or physically (or both).
There are many adaptogens, and some have more research behind them than others.
Compared to most adaptogens, Eleuthero has been studied pretty extensively, so we actually have a pretty good idea what it’s capable of and what it may be capable of.
Practitioners of herbal medicine have attributed various benefits to Eleuthero so it’s used by a fairly wide range of people for a bunch of different reasons.
Why Do People Supplement With Eleuthero?
Most people who supplement with Eleuthero are doing so because they think it:
- Reduces Fatigue
- Improves Cognitive Function (Memory)
- Reduces Stress
- Promotes Brain Health
- Boosts Immune Health
- Enhances Exercise Performance
- Improves Quality Of Life
While some of these alleged benefits have actually been proven, many of them have not.
There are many supplements which contain Eleuthero either alone or as part of a multi-ingredient formula which make claims that are actually not supported by science.
It’s a unique herbal supplement with unique properties that, quite frankly, are not well understood.
Let’s take a look at some of the major attributed to benefits attributed to Eleuthero and see how much scientific weight they hold.
What Are The Benefits Of Eleuthero?
Like I said, some of the benefits which are commonly attributed to Eleuthero are backed by science, and some are not. Thanks to a fair amount of scientific research, though, we do actually know a bit about what Eleuthero does.
Eleuthero And Fatigue
One of the primary reasons Eleuthero is used as a dietary supplement is to combat general fatigue.
The anti-fatigue benefits attributed to Eleuthero are based more on the general notion that it’s an adaptogen than hard evidence, though.
There is some evidence which indicates it may be effective in certain circumstances though…
In one study, Eleuthero failed to reduce fatigue in subjects with severe chronic fatigue syndrome, but did appear to be effective in subjects with less severe chronic fatigue.
This is the only study which has investigated the impact of Eleuthero (alone) on general fatigue, but a few studies have shown anti-fatigue effects during exercise as well.
Eleuthero may be somewhat effects for reducing symptoms of chronic fatigue, and this would make sense considering it’s adaptogenic nature.
Eleuthero And Cognitive Function
Like other adaptogens, Eleuthero is widely believed to improve cognitive function and promote brain health.
There is some preliminary evidence to support this notion.
Two molecules found in Eleuthero–Eleutheroside B and Eleutheroside E–have been shown to improve memory in aging mice.
In humans, Eleuthero has been shown to improve mental performance when combined with other adaptogenic herbs, but there aren’t many studies which have looked at the cognitive enhancing properties of Eleuthero by itself.
One study noted improvements in mental health and overall quality of life in elderly people, but that’s about it.
Generally speaking, adaptogens can have a positive impact on cognitive function, but it would be kind of a stretch to label Eleuthero as a nootropic, based on the current research.
Eleuthero And Exercise Performance
Eleuthero has actually been studied pretty extensively in the area of exercise performance, both alone and in combination with other adaptogens.
Although it’s not entirely clear how Eleuthero improves exercise performance, research suggests it has something to do with increased oxygen intake.
Unfortunately, not all the studies have reached similar conclusions…
A comprehensive review, which looked cumulatively at the results of several studies, concluded that the ergogenic (performance-enhancing) properties of Eleuthero are unreliable at best.
Supplement companies that sell Eleuthero love to highlight the studies in which it has been shown to enhance performance, but they typically leave out the fact that is has failed to enhance performance in some studies too.
Based on the current body of research, I wouldn’t be so quick to label Eleuthero as a performance enhancer.
It may help improve your endurance and reduce fatigue, but it’s not guaranteed.
Eleuthero And Immune Health
Eleuthero is commonly promoted as having immune-boosting properties.
T cells are a type of white blood cell which are heavily involved in immune health so a higher T cell count is typically seen as a positive indicator of immune health.
Interleukins are proteins which play an important role in immune response, particularly inflammation.
There is also evidence to the contrary, however.
In vitro (in living cells, but not in a living organism), Eleuthero has been shown to decrease Interleukin secretion and immune response.
When you step back and look at the research as a whole, it’s clear that Eleuthero has some impact on the immune system. It’s just not clear what that impact is…
It could be viewed as either positive or negative, so it’s probably more correct to call Eleuthero an ‘immune-modulator’, rather than an ‘immune-booster’.
Eleuthero And Cardiovascular Health
Eleuthero is commonly alleged to be beneficial for heart health, but there remains some speculation as to whether it actually does.
Preliminary research (in mice), indicates it may be, but not many human studies have looked specifically at anything related to cardiovascular health.
One study found that Eleuthero reduced LDL cholesterol (‘bad cholesterol’) without impacting HDL cholesterol (‘good cholesterol).
Currently, that’s the only bit of evidence there is indicating Eleuthero has cardiovascular benefits.
It’s definitely possible that Eleuthero supplementation can have a favorable impact on your cardiovascular health, but it doens’t appear to be especially effective in this regard.
Eleuthero And Longevity (Lifespan)
One of the primary uses of Eleuthero in traditional systems of medicine has been to enhance longevity.
Needless to say, however, it’s tough to prove something increases lifespan in humans.
In order to conduct an experiment to prove that, you would have to follow subjects for their entire lives. And, even then, there are too many factors, both environmental and genetic, which affect the outcome.
All we can really say about Eleuthero is that it appears to be beneficial for longevity and it’s probably not a bad idea to supplement with it if increasing longevity is your goal.
But, to say that ‘Eleuthero will make you live longer’ would be stretch.
What’s The Clinically Effective Dosage Of Eleuthero?
The term ‘clinically effective dosage’ refers to the actual dosage at which a supplement (or any other substance) has proven effective in studies.
With Eleuthero, studies have used a variety of different dosages, but 800-1200mg/day seems to be an effective range.
Some have used doses as low as 200mg/day while others have used doses as high as 2 to 4 grams/day, though.
It’s not clear whether lower doses are still effective or whether higher doses are even more effective.
For now, it’s probably best to just stick within the 800-1200mg/day range.
Most people take Eleuthero supplements with food, as opposed to an empty stomach. This is probably a good idea since there is some evidence to suggest it doesn’t have particularly good absorption to begin with.
Does Eleuthero Have Any Side Effects?
Eleuthero tends to be well-tolerated.
Worst case, you’re looking at maybe a stomach ache or some digestive issues. Nothing that can’t be avoided by simply dividing your daily dosage throughout the day and/or taking it with meals.
The LD50–the amount of a substance it takes to kill half a population (of mice)– for Eleuthero is upwards of 3g per kg of body weight.
That is an astronomically high dosage so it’s pretty much impossible to accidentally take too much Eleuthero and die.
Of course, side effects with any supplement may vary depending on individual factors such as brain chemistry or other medications you may be taking.
It’s probably a good idea to check with your doctor before taking Eleuthero supplements if you’re already taking another kind of medication.
Choosing The Best Eleuthero Supplement
As is the case with most herbal supplements, quality varies from Eleuthero supplement to Eleuthero supplement.
The adaptogenic benefits of Eleuthero are really the result of several molecules which can be either more concentrated or less concentrated, depending on things like:
- growing techniques
To make matters more complicated, it’s difficult and expensive to test for these active components, so most Eleuthero supplements on the market have not been tested for quality or purity.
I wish I could recommend a brand that you can trust, but the truth is, I don’t know of any brands that do this kind of testing and, without it, it’s basically impossible to determine the quality of any herbal supplement.
If you really want to give Eleuthero a shot, just try to pick a brand that at least appears to be ethical and transparent.
Any company which at least tests for heavy metals and bacterial contaminants would be a good candidate in my opinion…
Unfortunately, I don’t know of any examples of brands that do that.
Adaptogens That Are Way Better Than Eleuthero
By now, it should be pretty obvious that Eleuthero is not what it is often made out (by supplement companies) to be.
It may have some benefits, but many of the supposed benefits are either non-existent or just less reliable than you’ve been lead to believe.
Fortunately, there are a lot of adaptogenic herbs out there and some of them have actually been proven to provide the benefits that Eleuthero is supposed to provide.
Let’s talk about a couple of the very best…
Rhodiola Rosea is one of the most popular herbal adaptogens.
It has an extensive history of use throughout traditional systems of medicine, and for good reason…
Research shows that Rhodiola can:
- reduce fatigue and stress
- enhance exercise endurance
- support cardiovascular health
- preserve cognitive function
- help with depression
In other words…
Rhodiola does many of the things that Eleuthero is supposed to do.
If you had to pick between the two, Rhodiola Rosea would be the better option, no doubt.
Obviously, you don’t have to pick between the two. You could just stack them if you wanted.
There are plenty of supplements out there which contain both Rhodiola and Eleuthero as key ingredients.
As is always the case, you just need to make sure you’re dosing it right.
The clinically effective dosage range for Rhodiola Rosea is between 300 and 600mg/day, preferably of a standardized extract containing 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides.
If you don’t see the standardization on the label, you should probably just avoid that product.
If a supplement company is paying top dollar to use a high quality, standardized extract, they’re going to want you to know.
Unfortunately, most people in the supplement racket aren’t in it to produce high quality products..
Most people are just in it for the money and if using a cheaper, lower quality ingredient is going to increase the profit margin, they’ll do it every time.
Ashwagandha has an extensive history of use throughout Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine which originated around present day India.
Research shows that Ashwagandha can:
- reduce stress and anxiety
- enhance exercise performance
- optimize hormonal health
- protect the brain
- improve sleep
It also appears to have some anti-cancer properties and may increase longevity as well.
Out of all the adaptogenic herbal supplements you could take, Ashwagandha provides the most diverse range of benefits.
Unfortunately, not all Ashwagandha supplements are created equal.
You want to make sure yours contains the full spectrum of Withanolides, which are the active components responsible for the majority of the benefits.
I personally take KSM-66.
It’s a patented, standardized form of Ashwagandha which is subject to purity and potency testing.
The Bottom Line On Eleuthero
Eleuthero definitely has some adaptogenic properties.
It can potentially:
- reduce fatigue
- improve exercise performance
- support immune functions
- enhance cognitive function
- increase longevity
But, as is the case with some many herbal adaptogens, science still has a long way to go before we can conclude with absolute certainty that Eleuthero is effective for these things.
Right now, it’s sort of a ‘try and see’ type supplement.
Personally, I don’t supplement with Eleuthero because there are better (more proven) adaptogens (like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola), but you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth a try.