Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng) is the root of Eleutherococcus senticosus, a plant in the ginseng family that is different from true ginseng (Panax). Other names for it are spiny ginseng, eleuthero ginseng, and eleuthero. Many people in Russia, including athletes and cosmonauts, use it to increase endurance and resistance to stress, and Russian researchers have shown that it does have these properties. They call it an "adaptogen," a substance that promotes adaptation to environmental stress of all kinds. In the past such a substance was called a tonic, something that tones or stretches the system, making it more resilient, better able to bend under pressure rather than break.
Traditional Chinese medicine places great value on tonic plants because it believes in strengthening natural defenses. In the West scientists pay little attention to that strategy and none at all to tonic plants. Unlike true ginseng, eleutherococcus is not a stimulant or sexual enhancer. But like ginseng, eleuthero must be taken regularly over a period of weeks or months in order to have an effect. It may be useful for people who are run down, weak, lacking in energy and resistance, or suffering from chronic illness. Siberian ginseng products are readily available in herb and health-food stores. They vary in concentration and potency, so follow the dosage recommendations of the manufacturer.