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Eleuthero's Potential for Glaucoma Patients

Submitted by tsingle999 on Sun, 11/02/2008 - 11:10pm

Eleuthero is an herb that is defined as an adaptogen. Which means it helps the body adapt to stresses. In this herbs case it works for both mental and physical stresses. 
As an adaptogen it is said to help lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure and raise blood pressure in people with low blood pressure. Christopher Hobbs a top herbalist writes in his book on Ginseng that Eleuthero is the model adaptogenic herb. He says that "studies show that Eleuthero extract, when taken on a regular basis, can improve visual and hearing acuity." He goes on to state that "People with hypotension and hypertension showed normalization of blood pressure after courses of eleuthero extract. Several other studies support these findings." He also says that the Russian studies on eleuthero show "an enhancement of the liver's ability to break down and rid the body of drugs" Something we should all be concerned about with the daily dosing of the eye drops. 
David Winston's (the east coast's top herbalist IMHO plus Steven Maimes co-author) book ADAPTOGENS: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief (2007) discusses the clinical research and one of the findings was improvements in hearing. Now this is not direct evidence for action on the eyes but the things that tend to improve hearing and the auditory nerve (like blood flow) also tend to help eyes. The studies also show increased oxygen uptake. This is another finding that is not direct evidence for the eyes but the more oxygen you take in the more ends up going to your optic nerve in general. Eleuthero is also classified as an antioxidant which also supports the optic nerve. They say this herb improves alertness and cognitive function. Again the better brain function and of course the optic nerve is part of the brain. 
Winston highlights the study by Arushanian et al, 2003 that showed eleuthero improved short term memory and increased visual sensitivity and visual percepton. Unfortunately the study is in russian. 
Some of its active compounds are terpenoids which are also found in ginkgo. These terpenoids seem to be responsible for the neuroprotective effects of these herbs. 
When you search pub med for Eleuthero there are some studies looking at the herbs effect on neurons. They seem to have the ability to restore neurons that have been damaged in cell cultures. There are studies on its memory improvement, its role in decreasing inflammation and its ability to increase humans light and color perception. All of these point to its effects on the brain/neurons. 
There is also documented evidence (from all of the sources i looked metioned here) of increased immune activity and decreased colds / sick days. This can't help but protect your eyes from high pressures as well. 
I have read Allan Tillotson's (highly regarded herbalist who has shown some interest in glaucoma) monograph on Eleuthero ( 
root-bark-eleutherococcus-senticosus.html) where he says there are no known safety issues except it might overstimulate some people or raise blood pressure slightly. 
Christopher Hobbs describes eleuthero as more neutral than the other ginsengs, it can be taken for longer times and is generally not as stimulating. 
David Winston says that "elethero is mild and is equally appropriate for for men or women, young people or the elderly." In rare cases it can cause overstimulation in sensitive people. 
Both Hobbs and Winston stated that the use of Eleuthero with antibiotics increases the antibiotics effectiveness (based on studies). 
Gaia Herbs (Scalzo and Cronin, Herbal Solutions for Healthy Living) safety information: 
Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. Do not take during an 
acute infection or fever, or if you have a bleeding disorder. Side 
effects are rare but may include insomnia, swollen breasts, 
hypertension, irritability, anxiety, and/or a rapid heart rate. Use 
with caution and seek the advise of a qualified healthcare 
professional if you have hypertension.* 
There is a randomized clinical trial by Cicero et al, 2004 that showed no herb - drug interactions between eleuthero and digoxin. The study was on elderly patients with high blood pressure. The study showed improvements in the patients mental status and energy over 4 weeks of use. 

Clearly the evidence doesn't conclusively indicate that eleuthero will help glaucoma but all of the signs point in that direction. What we need is some good studies on eleuthero and visual parameters. In the meantime, I will err on the side of the safety of my eyesight and take eleuthero daily for its possible neuroprotective, blood pressure raising, liver protective & immune stimulating effects. I have been taking it for 3 months with no side effects. Currently it is possible to purchase eleuthero in the United States that is tested for purity, activity and heavy metals (Gaia Herbs). 

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