Eleuthero may have some immune-boosting properties, but what little research has been done remains inconclusive.
Eleuthero is an East Asian shrub that has long been used as an all-around healing herb in traditional medicine. It may help the immune system through:
- Immunomodulatory activity. Eleuthero has demonstrated the ability to influence cytokine levels, which may result in improved immune system function.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a woody plant native to Northeast Asia. Although it is not related to true ginseng (Panax ginseng), it is often called Siberian ginseng because it is believed to possess similar restorative properties. Eleuthero roots have long been used in Russian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese traditional medicine for their anti-stress adaptogenic qualities, which may help:
- Reduce fatigue and improve physical and mental performance
- Stimulate the immune system and fight infections
- Improve overall well-being
Today, eleuthero is growing in popularity worldwide as an immunity booster used to help fight colds and other infections. However, current medical research is quite limited and has reported mixed results.
How Eleuthero Might Help With Immunity
Eleuthero contains active compounds known as eleutherosides which are believed to possess:
Eleuthero extracts have been shown to influence immune system function by either raising or reducing the levels of certain cytokines – molecules that play a central role in controlling the immune response. 1 2
Eleuthero Benefits & Uses for Immunity
Eleuthero supplements are widely used to boost the immune system, especially in cases of physical or mental stress because of its adaptogenic qualities. There is some scientific evidence to back this use, although research remains somewhat mixed, with some positive and some negative findings.
Some people also use eleuthero for particular illnesses such as colds and the flu, but there aren’t any research studies looking at the application of eleuthero for these particular infections.
Animal & Petri Dish Research
Some animal and cell culture studies have shown that eleuthero extracts may:
- Improve immune system activity during physical stress, as noted by increased natural killer cell activity in mice subjected to forced swimming 3
- Help fight viral infections, as demonstrated by antiviral activity against human rhinovirus (main cause of the common cold), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the influenza A virus 4
However, it should be noted that there is also research suggesting that eleuthero “may not stimulate immune function” as shown by a lack of effect on cytokine levels in mouse immune cells. 5
Clinical trials suggest that eleuthero might possess some immune-boosting properties, but findings are mixed.
This double-blind, placebo-controlled study examined the effects of eleuthero extract on the immune system. A total of 36 adults were given placebo or 30 ml of eleuthero extract daily for 4 weeks. The eleuthero group experienced a rise in overall number of immune cells and T lymphocytes, cytotoxic, and natural killer cells in particular, in addition to increased activation of T lymphocytes.
- The researchers concluded that “The most salient feature in the verum group was a drastic increase in the absolute number of immunocompetent cells, with an especially pronounced effect on T lymphocytes, predominantly of the helper/inducer type, but also on cytotoxic and natural killer cells.” 6
This placebo-controlled trial examined eleuthero and Asian ginseng supplementation in elite endurance athletes. They were given eleuthero or ginseng extract equivalent to 4 and 2 g of dried root, or placebo daily for 6 weeks. None of the groups experienced any notable impact on the levels of measured immune cells, including T-cells, T-helper cells (CD4), T-suppressor cells (CD8), natural killer cells, and B lymphocytes.
- The researchers concluded that “None of the immune system variables changed significantly nor showed any clear trend from pre to post test in any of the treatment groups.”7
This study examined the effects of eleuthero on the immune system and physical performance. Fifty adults were given either 25 drops of eleuthero or 40 drops of echinacea extract 3 times daily for a 30-day period and asked to complete an ergospirometric test. Among the findings was an increase in activity of lymphocyte and neutrophil cells, suggesting improved immunity.
- The study concluded that “active components in Eleutherococcus senticosus contained in Taiga Wurzel preparation affect cellular defence and physical fitness, as well as lipid metabolism.”8
Dosage for Immunity
- Clinical studies have used different eleuthero preparations, making it difficult to suggest ideal dosages
- Eleuthero supplements typically come in 400 – 600 mg capsules of root extract
- Powdered root
- Dried extract sold in capsules
- Liquid extract
Supplements in Review Says
- Eleuthero 400 – 600 mg for immunity.
Eleuthero has some potential, but more research is needed. It’s difficult to recommend taking eleuthero for boosting the immune system because of the scarcity of research and presence of some negative findings. However, it does have some anecdotal and scientific backing.
Given the lack of research, it’s best to follow supplement dosages. Most eleuthero supplements recommend taking 400 – 600 mg capsules up to 3 times daily if needed.
- Phytother Res. 2001 May;15(3):268-70.Schmolz MW et al. The synthesis of Rantes, G-CSF, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-12 and IL-13 in human whole-blood cultures is modulated by an extract from Eleutherococcus senticosus L. roots. Phytother Res. 2001 May;15(3):268-70. ↩
- Steinmann GG et al. Immunopharmacological in vitro effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus extracts. Arzneimittelforschung. 2001 Jan;51(1):76-83. ↩
- Kimura Y and Sumiyoshi M. Effects of various Eleutherococcus senticosus cortex on swimming time, natural killer activity and corticosterone level in forced swimming stressed mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Dec;95(2-3):447-53. ↩
- Glatthaar-Saalmüller B et al. Antiviral activity of an extract derived from roots of Eleutherococcus senticosus. Antiviral Res. 2001 Jun;50(3):223-8. ↩
- Wang H et al. Asian and Siberian ginseng as a potential modulator of immune function: an in vitro cytokine study using mouse macrophages. Clin Chim Acta. 2003 Jan;327(1-2):123-8. ↩
- Bohn B et al. Flow-cytometric studies with eleutherococcus senticosus extract as an immunomodulatory agent. Arzneimittelforschung. 1987 Oct;37(10):1193-6. ↩
- Gaffney BT et al. The effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus and Panax ginseng on steroidal hormone indices of stress and lymphocyte subset numbers in endurance athletes. Life Sci. 2001 Dec 14;70(4):431-42. ↩
- Szolomicki J, Samochowiec L, et al. The influence of active components of Eleutherococcus senticosus on cellular defence and physical fitness in man. Phytother Res. 2000 Feb;14(1):30-5. ↩
- Drozd J et al. Estimation of humoral activity of Eleutherococcus senticosus. Acta Pol Pharm. 2002 Sep-Oct;59(5):395-401. ↩