Welcome to another installment in my multi-part series, where I am discussing adaptogens and how I am using them to help me on my healing journey. You can read about my journey to health here. If you’re just tuning in to this series, you can read the following articles on the subject of adaptogens:
DISCLAIMER: Due to the FDA and FTC laws on health claims, I need to make this very clear. None of the information in this post is to be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor or certified medical practitioner of any sort. I am simply sharing my own personal experiences, as I travel the long road to optimal health. Statements/products discussed have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Every person is different and you should always consult your own certified health care practitioner before making changes to your current diet or before beginning any herbal or vitamin supplement regimen or exercise program.
Before we start, I want to share a few things.
- No matter how much one can learn about herbs on their own, through books and the Internet, there is always a TON of value in working with a trained herbalist. The more I learn about herbs, the more I realize the importance of working with a professional. A quick Google search for an herbalist in your city will most likely yield a ton of results. Since trained herbalists are working with a variety of patients, they are able to bring a lot of experience and insight from their practice that we do not otherwise have access to. That’s not to say you can’t get started at home, on your own. There is a ton of value in that, and that is where I’m at right now as I get my toes wet. But, if you’re like me and dealing with some specific health issues, working with a professional might be just the thing your wellness journey needs!
- I have been using a method called “simpling”, where you focus on using one herb over an extended period of time. While most herbs work synergistically with other herbs, there is value in simpling as well. Herbalist Brigitte Mars, says that the art of simpling allows you to “deeply connect with all the aspects of a plant’s power and to learn more about the unique flavor and properties of that individual plant.”(1) A local herbalist her in Denver always brings up the issue of compliance. The hardest thing is to get people to actually start using the herbs, so if simpling makes incorporating herbs into your life easier, then go for it!
- Not all herbs are suitable for all people, as we are all unique individuals. The herbs that I have selected for this specific series are herbs that all fall into the “generally regarded as safe” category. That does not, however, mean they are safe for everyone. It’s always best to check with your doctor, naturopath, etc., before introducing new things into your diet or supplementation regimen. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is strongly advised that you speak with your doctor prior to incorporating any new herb into your diet.
Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Many of you may not be familiar with the name Eleuthero (also called wucha), but you may have heard of Siberian Ginseng. Eleuthero was called Siberian Ginseng up until 2002, when the Ginseng Labeling Act banned the name in the US. This plant is not truly part of the ginseng species.(2) This plant is native to Siberia, Northern China, Northern Japan, and Korea. It has been adapted to grow in the damp regions of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since around 190 AD.(3)
The taste/energy of Eleuthero is sweet, slightly bitter, and slightly warm. Just like all of the other herbs I’ve featured, I did try a tiny bit of the dried root plain. Call me weird, but I felt like I needed to try each herb on its own in its natural state. Unlike the other herbs I have featured, this had no taste to me at all. It just tasted like I was chewing on a toothpick.
Similar to American Ginseng, the plant takes awhile to reach maturity — 7+ years. It is a shrub that can reach heights of 9 feet. TCM uses Eleuthero to improve sexual function, boost energy, bring the body into balance, and enhance immunity. It is one of the most important herbs in TCM.(4)
The Medicine Hunter website (which I highly recommend checking out) says:
Despite the lack of a thorough understanding of wucha’s adaptogenic powers, a few things are known with respect to its specific immune-enhancing effects. Two polysaccharides in wucha display specific immune-enhancing power by promoting phagocytosis (the means by which protective cells engulf harmful microorganisms, damaged cells and foreign particles), and the promotion of protective B lymphocytes, which are protective agents manufactured by the immune system. Further studies show that wucha helps to defend the body against some bacterial and chemical toxins. Pharmacological evaluation conducted in both China and Russia on the various compounds in Wucha have determined that Wucha’s stimulation of sexual and adrenal functions is due to its various sterols; its sedative activity is attributable to coumarins; its beneficial effects upon the cardiovascular system are due to flavonoids; and its anti-tumor activity is an effect of polysaccharides. Listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, Wucha is used traditionally and clinically in the treatment of cancer, leukocytopenia, hypertension, hypotension, atherosclerosis, nervous fatigue and other diseases.(4)
Eleuthero may be one of the most studied adaptogens, and because of this, there is a lot of information and data showing the benefit to human health. Russian scientists were the ones who coined the term “adaptogen” to describe Eleuthero and its effects on human health.(5) Studies on human performance in both China and Russia have shown that Eleuthero increases a person’s ability to handle a wide range of external stress factors (like heat, noise, etc.). It has also been shown to (with regular use) help increase endurance, mental alertness, work productivity, and athletic performance. In cases of low libido, eleuthero can help boost desire in both men and women.(3) Russian cosmonauts used eleuthero root to combat space sickness.(5) Clinical studies have shown that it can help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as be used to treat the arteries and help treat stress induced (white coat) hypertension (something that I suffer from) when combined with other herbs.(2) Other health benefits may include:
- Strengthening the immune system with regular use over a long period of time
- Increase bone marrow and white blood cell counts for those going through chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments (based on one clinical study)
- Protective against bacterial and chemical toxins
- Help those who have Type-A (high-stress) personalities relax
- Improves quality of sleep and reduces nighttime waking
- Normalizes immune and adrenal function
- Reduce effects of stress, including the production of cortisol
- Protective benefits during times of oxygen deprivation
- Improves recover time from illness
- Help with glaucoma and myopia
There is a great video interview of Chris Kilham of Medicine Hunter about Eleuthero. They have embedding turned off, so click here to watch it. Then, below, there is another short video with Chris where is discusses Eleuthero and shows us the plant in its natural habitat.
How is Eleuthero Root Used?
David Winston and Steven Maimes say:
As an adaptogen, eleuthero is mild and is equally appropriate for men or women, young people or the elderly. It is unlikely to cause overstimulation and can be taken over long periods of time.(2)
Remember that every person is different and unique, so there are going to be some herbs that don’t agree with you. In rare cases, it has been found that eleuthero can overstimulate sensitive people and can also interfere with certain medications. The most common ways to use eleuthero are:
- Fluid Extracts
I have been using eleuthero in my teas, and I have a tincture that is not quite ready to use, so I’ll experiment with that as well. The reason that I chose eleuthero is because it is generally considered very safe and is appropriate for people of all ages. It can also be safely used over an extended period of time. In addition, was curious to see how it would help normalize my immune and adrenal function, as well as help with quality of sleep. So far, I have noticed that I am feeling more stable and consistent throughout the days, so I do plan on continuing to use it, as well as play around with dosages and the forms that I take it in.
Ready to Learn More?
Stay tuned for more herbal profiles! I will continue writing about the specific adaptogens that I am using in my healing journey. There are a lot of adaptogens out there, but the key is finding ones that work well for your needs. If you like what you’ve read here, please keep in touch! You can subscribe to my semi-monthly newsletter or subscribe to email updates so you never miss a new post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Have a question? Contact me here.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and would like to know who I recommend, check out my Resources page.
1. ”The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine: The Ultimate Multidisciplinary Reference to the Amazing Realm of Healing Plants, in a Quick-study, One-stop Guide”, by Brigitte Mars. Basic Health Publications, 2007.
2. “Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief”. David Winston and Steven Maimes. Healing Arts Press, 2007.
4. “Eleuthero“. MedicineHunter.com
5. “Eleuthero Root“. Tree of Light Publishing.
*Advertisements from my trusted affiliate partners*