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Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Eleuthero is the dried root and rhizome of Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. and Maxim.) Maxim. (Family Araliaceae). Properties include that of tonic, stimulant, adaptogenic, strengthens tendons and bones, removes rheumatism, invigorates blood and breaks up blood stasis, and diuretic. The most common traditional uses of this herb are rheumatism, arthritis, backache, edema, weakness of legs, impotence, and traumatic injuries. Modern uses include stress and low resistance to diseases.

Eleuthero, or ciwujia, is one of several wujias that have been used interchangeably for over two thousand years in China as a general tonic to treat various conditions. Although also called Siberian "ginseng" with tonic properties like ginseng and belonging to the same family, eleuthero contains active constituents that are quite different from those of ginseng. Thus, it does not contain the well-known saponin glycosides (called ginsenosides) which are the major active principles of ginseng. Instead, its active components (called eleutherosides) are glycosides of sterols, phenylpropanoids, coumarins, lignans and triterpenes. It also contains other nutrients such as vitamins (E, beta-carrotene, etc.) and polysaccharides, among others.

As typical in research on tonics, bits and pieces of scientific evidence have shown eleuthero to have broad biological effects, including hypoglycemic, antiinflammatory, diuretic, estrogenic, gonadotropic, antihypertensive, antioxidant, immunomodulating, antitumor, antiedema, stress-resistant, etc. Although some of the activities have been attributed to certain eleutherosides and polysaccharides in eleuthero, the fact remains that we still don't know how and why eleuthero works. Instead of looking for a single chemical hoping it will give us the key to eleuthero's secrets, we should be evaluating the whole herb. The problem is that, based on the current system of drug research support, no drug company or government agency would be interested in supporting work which is not on a single patentable chemical. Well-known herbs and formulas cannot be patented and without a patent, the financial supporter or its associates and friends cannot make big money.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including eleuthero on pages 24-25. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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