Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)

Eleuthero or siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) was once used by Soviet soldiers to boost energy, possibly because of the herb’s ability to prevent lactic acid build-up. It also helps counter the side effects of stress, like dampened immunity or damaged cells. It nudges your body to produce more immune agents like natural killer cells and antibodies but also keeps a check on molecules that transmit signal for inflammation. The herb is potent, so stick to less than a teaspoon a day.

Commonly called siberian ginseng but really a distant relative of the “true” asian/panax ginseng, eleuthero is worthy of a spot in your diet, especially if you constantly feel worn out.

We’ll tell you why.

The herb is an adaptogen – which means it can help your body and mind endure periods of stress. Your energy is directed to where it’s needed the most in your body and you’re not spending your precious reserves frivolously.

The chemicals that help orchestrate this are concentrated in the roots. Eleutherosides B and E seem to be the star performers.

Why It’s So Great

1. Helps Conserve Energy

Just by eating more nutritious, wholesome food, you can feel a lot more energetic. You probably already knew that. But have you been looking to herbs for an advantage?

An herb like eleuthero may help bring about a more noticeable shift in your energy meter, perhaps sooner. Even its occasional tea counts. But this isn’t news. Soviet soldiers used siberian ginseng to power through long days way before it made it to blogs.

Exactly how the herb manages to influence our energy levels hasn’t been studied in enough detail yet, but there are supporting animal studies and initial clinical trials that unanimously say “There’s definitely something to it.”

  • The hypothesis is that eleuthero prevents lactic acid buildup in the body while also helping burn fat more efficiently. Anyone even slightly inclined to fitness will tell you what a blessing that is.

The root components called eleutheroside E and (+)-syringaresinol-di-O-beta-D-glucoside seem to be at work here.

2. Promotes Mental Well-being

Eleuthero helps you cope better when life throws you a curveball. This could be another reason why you end up saving more energy. The extra mental space must help.

Here’s what it does:

  • Strengthens your shield of heat shock proteins: Nothing to do with heat. Heat shock proteins (also called stress proteins) buy the cell time to repair and recover from stress. They protect not-yet-formed proteins from damage and keep them from clumping into cellular nuisances. Trust us, you want stress proteins around during trying times.
  • Ensures the dialogue between your nerve cells continues: This has to do with the release of more neuropeptide Y, a chemical messenger. More neuropeptide Y in circulation means better conversation between nerve cells and a more grounded stress response.
  • Doesn’t let your immune system give up on you: In scientific parlance, the herb’s eleutheroside E counters stress-induced inhibition of your immune system’s natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells help your body contain viral infections – you see why they’re so important when you’re not at your best.

Here’s the caveat with eleuthero though. Too much – more than a teaspoon a day – may end up weakening your stress response instead of strengthening it. As long as you stick to a teaspoon, you’re in good hands.

3. Supports the Immune System

The immune system is one of the most taken-for-granted systems in the body, expected to somehow just take care of itself… and you. Yes, that’s why it’s there, but it could always use some help!

With eleuthero, help is at hand. The herb masterfully modulates the immune system, fueling it when required and pushing back when necessary. Here’s how:

  • Increases antibody production: Immune cells shoot antibodies at anything they recognize as a threat, like bacteria and viruses. Your immune system has an advanced system in place to release them when required. Eleuthero could provide backup.
  • Limits inflammation: The herb targets COX-2 enzymes and makes them power down. In case you’re wondering, these enzymes are the reason why you have pain, fever, and inflammation. While this is absolutely necessary for the immune system to keep you well and healthy, they must be kept in check so that your own cells are not harmed in the bargain.

4. Champions Heart Health

Most people worry about their heart only when it’s a matter of the heart or they already have a heart condition. Why wait for things to go downhill? For now, we’ll strictly talk about the physical heart.

  • Eleuthero can increase the number of mitochondria in your heart muscles, even when you’re otherwise healthy.

Mitochondria are tiny powerhouses that churn out energy for your cells to use. Heart muscles could really use the boost and extra energy, given that they have to beat 24×7.

Lifestyle Tip

Eleuthero is a really potent herb so a little goes a long way and you don’t need to have it every day; in fact you shouldn’t. Stick to a maximum of a teaspoon of the root powder a day (2–4 gm).

The better, more convenient way to have the herb may be to make a nice comforting tea using its roots. Its sweet flavour with bitter undertones make for an interesting beverage.

Tea or powder, avoid having eleuthero in the evening. First thing in the morning may be something you want to try.

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