Posted on Apr 19th, 2006

Stress arrives in numerous forms. Stress can show up in a more primitive “flight or fight” form which is normally temporary, and usually occurs when we are scared by something and the body gets ready to either take a hike or stay and fight. For instance, watching a scary movie might frighten us and make us jump in our seats. This, however, is temporary and in a couple of moments, the mind takes over and tells us that it is just a movie and there is nothing more to fear or do. Then there is the stress that we all know and think of when we hear the word ‘stress’. The stress of our everyday lives –be it trying to meet deadlines at work or at school, family responsibilities, or just the daily grind of ‘trying to get ahead’ in life that many of us face. This particular kind of stress may hang around for days, if not months and sometimes years!

This type of stress is a veiled killer, and may lead to bigger risks of numerous health conditions. Although our bodies were made to tolerate the temporary “flight or fight” reaction to stress—we were not created to endure stress over long periods of time, as it slowly degrades our health and vitality. Stress over a long period not only decays our ability to react to stress, but also our ability to perform our normal daily tasks. A perfect example that most of us are familiar with is the effect of stress on our immune systems. The more stress we take on, the easier it is for us to get sick and catch a cold or flu, as our immune system is depleted by the constant stress our body has undergone.

Now, this is where a group of herbs that are utilized throughout the world can help us—they have been called “adaptogens”, and are normally herbs that are taken to aid the body adapt to and endure stress. Dominant in this group of herbs are the ginsengs. There are two key types of ginseng, Asian ginseng and American ginseng. Herbalists, like myself, think of Asian ginseng as being warming or having a “yang” quality, while American ginseng is thought of as cooling, with a more “yin” quality.

Siberian Ginseng as an Effective Anti-Stressor

Eleuthero (officially known as “Siberian Ginseng”), in contrast, is generally thought of as neutral, so it can suit more body constitutions. As a matter of fact, the Soviet scientist who is a lead researcher in the attributes of Eleuthero, named Brekhman, has stated that Eleuthero has a wider range of activity compared to the two ginsengs. Eleuthero is becoming widely accepted today as an anti-stress agent, as it has been the subject of over 1,000 scientific studies! The studies are demonstrating that Eleuthero is able to support the body in times of both chronic and acute stress. It not only helps the functioning of the body, but also the mind, as is a mind/body method to helping us deal with stress.

Eleuthero has held a long traditional use in Chinese medicine as both a tonic and a preventative herb, as it was considered to increase longevity, improve health, the appetite and memory. As Eleuthero gathered little attention from Western scientists until fairly recently, most of the studies have been conducted by Soviet scientists; Soviet studies involving over 2,000 healthy subjects have deduced Eleuthero to have the ability to:

1. Promote human performance in times of difficult physical conditions

2. Boost work output and mental alertness

3. Improve the quality of this work output in both a mental and physical level

In addition, Eleuthero may help with easing a troubled mind and amplify our ability to get a good night’s sleep, improve our mood outlook, and sense of wellbeing. Eleuthero is recognized as having a gentle stimulating effect on people, and can augment overall energy levels, but it does not have the normal side effects of caffeine. Eleuthero increases energy without caffeine or ephedrine stimulants. Other areas for which Eleuthero has been established to be favorable in studies are in promoting cardiovascular health, immune function, longevity, athletic performance, respiratory health, normalizing blood sugar, promoting visual acuity and hearing, and normalizing cellular growth.

Many people equate the workplace with stress. Eleuthero has the capabilities to not only help us to adapt to that stress, but also to boost our performance, focus, and resistance to states that can keep us from work. The Soviets have been famous for their study of Eleuthero under different work conditions, such as workers at car factories, seamen, and telegraph operators. In the case of the telegraph operators—a job that needs not only focus, but a fast reflex-the operators worked for five minutes in intensity, and the number of errors they made was recorded. Whereas the control group showed about a 30% increase in error rate, the Eleuthero group showed a 30% decrease in errors.

Lastly, Eleuthero has either a calming or energizing effect on the person depending on the individual. It is known to give a gentle stimulating effect that is different than caffeine, and will not cause “shakiness” or the “jitters.” Eleuthero’s ability to swing in either direction depending on the needs of your body truly make it a first class adaptogen.

Judy Phillips is the founder of Jash Botanicals, a manufacturer of physicians grade herbal extracts and medicinals. A naturopath and herbalist with over 25 years of experience, her passion for producing herbal formulas of exceptional purity and strength grew from a dissatisfaction with mainstream herbal products. She is an author of various natural health topics, from detoxification to dietary modification, and works to assist the expansion of knowledge to individuals in search of natural treatments. offers a wide range of informative articles, including a monthly newsletter and a natural health blog.

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