The constituents in eleuthero that have been most studied are the eleutherosides.31 Seven primary eleutherosides have been identified, with most of the research attention focusing on eleutherosides B and E.32 Eleuthero also contains complex polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules).33 These constituents may play a critical role in eleuthero's ability to support immune function.
Eleuthero is an "adaptogen" (an agent that helps the body adapt to stress). It is thought to help support adrenal gland function when the body is challenged by stress.34
Eleuthero has been shown to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance without the letdown that comes with caffeinated products.35 Research has shown that eleuthero improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle.36 This means that a person is able to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recover from workouts more quickly. Preliminary research from Russia indicates it may be effective for this purpose.37 Other trials have been inconclusive38 or have shown no beneficial effect.39
Eleuthero may also support the body by helping the liver detoxify harmful toxins. It has shown a protective action in animal studies against chemicals such as ethanol, sodium barbital, tetanus toxoid, and chemotherapeutic agents.40 According to a test tube study eleuthero also helps protect the body during radiation exposure.41 Preliminary research in Russia has suggested that eleuthero may help alleviate side effects and help the bone marrow recover more quickly in people undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.42
Eleuthero has been shown to be effective as a treatment for the common cold when combined with andrographis in a formula sometimes referred to as Kan Jang.43, 44 Preliminary evidence also suggests that eleuthero may prove valuable in the long-term management of various diseases of the immune system, including HIV infection and chronic fatigue syndrome. Healthy people taking 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of tincture three times daily have been shown to have increased numbers of the immune cells (T4 lymphocytes) that have been found to decrease during HIV-infection and AIDS.45 Further human clinical trials are needed to confirm that eleuthero may be helpful for this disease.