Herb Profile: Eleuthero
For all of you wondering where the real SURGE of energy in Rasa comes from that makes it comparable to coffee: meet Eleuthero, your new best friend.
Although the energy eleuthero cultivates is comparable to coffee, the way it works with your body to achieve this effect is distinctly contrasting, as they operate on completely different levels, in completely different ways.
Once you start to hit the daily fatigue and “burnout” level with coffee, look no further than eleuthero to help perk you up and set you off in the direction you want to go.
Keep reading to discover the ways of eleuthero as a sustainable energizing adaptogen, nervous system restorative, and a powerful neuroendocrine (the interactions between the nervous and endocrine systems, as it relates to your hormones) regulator.
The Essence Of Energy
Remember in our herb profile on codonopsis when we talked about the root that both nourishes and energizes the body at the same time? Well, think of eleuthero as it’s main herbal “squeeze” in the formula. Although these herbs offer similar actions in both being energizing adaptogens and Qi tonics, they are not one and the same. While codonopsis is our main vitality booster and helps tonify (or strengthen) Qi, Blood, and fluids, eleuthero, on the other hand, focuses on cultivating pure energy through balancing the endocrine system and tonifying Qi, Blood, and Essence.
We will dive into exciting hormone talk a bit later in this article (holla, to those powerful hormones…) but first, we want to talk about essence. Oh, ESSENCE, you elusive element to characterize. But we shall try. (We ask that you please keep an open mind as we dive into the more ethereal aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine.)
Essence is formally defined as “the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory, etc.” (Dictionary.com, n.d.).
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this philosophical definition applies too, but “essence” is also defined as a yin, liquid substance that helps moisten and nourish the entire body in addition to generating spirit (Guang-ren et al, 2014). Boo-yah! There's that “inward nature” aspect our Western dictionaries are hinting at!
Essence, Blood, and fluids all work their yin magic on the body and nourish one another through the actions cultivated by Qi, a yang substance (Guang-ren et al, 2014). In general, the nourishing fluid-type properties are considered yin in nature and the active-type properties are considered more yang.
So essentially, it is a healthy practice to strengthen and balance ALL of these properties together so that our vitality and energy levels can remain stable. This is another reason why we use eleuthero and codonopsis together in Rasa. It’s all about that divine yin-yang balance, right?!
Unfortunately, it only gets MORE complicated than this...hence the reason why herbalists spend their entire lives studying and researching these fine elements!
We’re here to help lay it out in simpler terms. And eleuthero is here to help cultivate your inner energy along the way.
For us just the word restorative brings a big sigh of relief. Finally! Our hard-working body is getting the restoration it needs. If you live a life where you constantly send your nervous system into fight or flight mode—or if you follow a cyclic pattern with certain metabolic disorders like anemia, weight loss, insulin resistance, and other anabolic deficiencies—it’s time to show these systems a little love with eleuthero (Holmes, 1989).
Unfortunately, eleuthero cannot “restore life” in its literal meaning (we will let you know if we ever find an herb that can do that!!). However, since it restores our metabolic functions, meaning, the processes that occur inside so we can maintain life itself...in a way it is helping to restore life!
Eleuthero’s restorative function involves the endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems through most of their core functions: “thyroid, adrenal and pancreatic secretions are balanced and enhanced, nervous functions are balanced, blood pressure is equalized and fluids and electrolytes are regulated,” (Holmes, 1989).
And these are just a handful of the vital life functions eleuthero helps regulate and restore. The next best thing to a full life restorative that can “bring you back from the dead” if you ask us ;)
Honing In On Your Hormones
Let’s talk about “hormonal balancing” shall we? Another catchphrase and health “tag bait” that is used all over the place now… But what does it actually mean to balance our hormones naturally? And how does eleuthero connect to all of this?
Eleuthero is considered a neuroendocrine regulator herb, meaning that it helps balance, or regulate, the communication between two majorly important systems in our body: hormone-producing endocrine cells and nerve cells. In a nutshell: this is where our nervous and endocrine systems meet.
Since we already know how BIG of a role our hormonal balance and nervous system stability can have on our health, I’m sure you can imagine how grand of a meeting space our neuroendocrine system is!
This is what Eleuthero looks like in Rasa Koffee! 👇👇👇
Our inner “elite society” cells interact and “network” within this system including our hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and many others. When our hormones are “balanced,” it essentially means that everyone who needs to be at your internal party is present as well as communicating and behaving properly!
Through tonifying and nourishing our Qi, Blood, and Essence, eleuthero helps regulate and restore our neuroendocrine system, which includes supporting the metabolic disorders that we mentioned earlier.
Some of the key symptoms to look out for with having a neuroendocrine deficiency are feeling exhausted, low vitality and endurance, frequent or chronic infections (aka immune deficiency), depression, and poor sleep (Holmes, 1989).
Sounds pretty similar to “adrenal fatigue” symptoms, huh? Well, our adrenals are actually involved in this grand hormonal cascade and are a part of the neuroendocrine system, all starting at the “elite society” cocktail party in the brain.
Although people can slip into a habit of trash talking their adrenals, they are not always the ones to blame. A lot of other big name glands attend these parties too.
The “New” Ginseng
Although eleuthero is in the same botanical family (Araliaceae) as the infamous “ginseng” (and is even referred to as “Siberian ginseng”), some herbalists argue it should be in its own—superior—class altogether. Now if you have heard the copious amounts of praise ginseng receives in TCM, you must know this is a lofty claim!
Let’s shine the limelight on eleuthero for a moment. Although this herb shares similar qualities with ginseng, including being an energizing adaptogen, the energetics of eleuthero are far more balanced and neutral (Holmes, 1989). This makes eleuthero much more agreeable to take for a broad range of people, including certain states of chronic deficiency.
Not only are the energetics of eleuthero more balanced than ginseng, its adaptogenic function (in literally assisting our body’s ability to adapt to stressors and imbalances) is arguably superior to ginseng (Holmes, 1989). When researchers combined the two herbs together, some of the common undesirable side effects of ginseng seemed to be mitigated by eleuthero (Yance, 2013). Results like these imply that the field of potential health benefits of eleuthero could be even larger too...
Now now, we don’t want to start a battle between eleuthero and ginseng... in fact, we LOVE ginseng just as much as everyone else. But we highly respect it as a plant and want it to stay around for centuries more.
Since ginseng is such a popular energy-boosting root and has been for ages, it is not only threatened but now endangered (United Plant Savers, n.d.). Any responsible herbalist or herb enthusiast feels the pain when a plant is declared endangered. This is yet another reason why we use eleuthero in Rasa instead of ginseng.
What To Know Before You Get Energized With Eleuthero
There are a few situations to be aware of before you draw from eleuthero for all your sustainable energy needs. First off, since eleuthero is an adaptogen, it should not be taken while you are acutely sick. Refer back to our ashwagandha herb profile for a bit more detail on when and why not to use adaptogens.
If you stick to standard, professionally recommended dosing strategies, then adverse effects from eleuthero are rare. But if you do overdo it, you could experience symptoms like a headache, irritability, insomnia, cardiac arrhythmias, and elevated blood pressure. So if high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is an issue, then eleuthero is not for you.
Given the powerful, natural stimulating qualities of eleuthero, it is advised to avoid taking it with large amounts of other sources of caffeine, otherwise, the range of symptoms listed above could occur or become aggravated (Chevallier, 2000).
The Secret Jewel
Famous Chinese herbalist Li Shi-Chen said it best: “I would rather a handful of eleuthero than a cartload of gold and jewels,” (Holmes, 1989).
Beyond some of the special qualities we outlined above, eleuthero is also used for it’s anti-inflammatory and cardiotonic properties, to boost fertility, for neurasthenia, and even for certain dental conditions (oh and bedwetting too!), (Natural Standard, 2012).
With so many health-boosting properties happening behind the scenes, eleuthero just might be the secret energizing jewel we have been looking for.
Let us know in the comments below how you feel about Eleuthero!
About the Author
Heather is a Certified Clinical Herbalist and Nutritionist, Medical Anthropologist, Writer, Whole-Body Wellness Coach, and Holistic Educator. Connect with her on her personal website www.heathersaba.com and Instagram (@heathersaba)
Beinfield, H. & Korngold, E. (1991 ). Between heaven and earth. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine: The definitive home reference guide to 550 key herbs with all their uses as remedies for common ailments. New York, NY: DK Publishing.
Dictionary.com. (n.d.). Essence. [Website]. Retrieved from: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/essence?s=t.
Holmes, P. (1989). The energetics of western herbs. Cotati, CA: Snow Lotus Press.
Guang-ren, S., Eisenstark, D., & Qing-rong, Z. (2014). Beijing, China: People’s Medical Publishing House.
Natural Standard. (2012). Siberian ginseng: A review of the literature. [Online Article]. Retrieved from: https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-03/siberian-ginseng-review-literature.
United Plant Savers. (n.d.) Species At-Risk. [Online Article]. Retrieved from: https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/species-at-risk.
Yance, D. (2013). Adaptogens in medical herbalism: Elite herbs and natural compounds for mastering stress, aging, and chronic disease. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.