A comparative study on root and bark extracts of Eleutherococcus senticosus and their effects on human macrophages

Phytomedicine. 2020 Mar;68:153181. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2020.153181. Epub 2020 Feb 6.


Background: Eleutherococcus senticosus or Siberian ginseng is a medicinal plant containing adaptogenic substances believed to regulate immune responses. Both, the root and stem bark are commonly used in traditional medicines.

Purpose: The purpose of the present study is to chemically characterize E. senticosus root and bark extracts and to compare their effects on functions of human primary macrophages.

Study design and methods: HPLC-DAD-MS analysis was used to characterize chemical constituents of alcoholic extracts from E. senticosus root and bark. The data obtained and available databases were combined for network pharmacology analysis. Involvement of predicted pathways was further functionally confirmed by using monocyte-derived human macrophages and endotoxin-free E. senticosus root and bark extracts.

Results: Chemical analysis showed that the root extract contained more syringin, caffeic acid, and isofraxidin than the bark extract. At variance, bark extract contained more sesamin and oleanolic acid. Coniferyl aldehyde and afzelin were below the limit of quantification in both extracts. Network pharmacology analysis indicated that constituents of E. senticosus might affect the immune cell phenotype and signaling pathways involved in cell metabolism and cytoskeleton regulation. Indeed, both extracts promoted actin polymerization, migration, and phagocytosis of E. coli by macrophages pointing to macrophage polarization towards the M2 phenotype. In addition, treatment with E. senticosus root and bark extracts decreased phosphorylation of Akt on Ser473 and significantly reduced expression of the hemoglobin scavenger receptor CD163 by macrophages. Neither extract affected expression of CD11b, CD80, or CD64 by macrophages. In addition, macrophages treated with the bark extract, but not with the root extract, exhibited activated p38 MAPK and NF-κB and released increased, but still moderate, amounts of proinflammatory TNF-α and IL-6, anti-inflammatory IL-10, and chemotactic CCL1, which all together point to a M2b-like macrophage polarization. Differently, the root extract increased the IL-4-induced expression of anti-inflammatory CD200R. These changes in monocytes are in agreement with an increased M2a macrophage polarization.

Conclusion: The ability of E. senticosus root and bark extracts to promote polarization of human macrophages towards anti-inflammatory M2a and M2b phenotypes, respectively, might underlay the immunoregulatory activities and point to potential wound healing promoting effects of this medicinal plant.

Keywords: Adaptogen; Alternatively activated macrophages; Cytoskeleton; Eleutherococcus senticosus; Network pharmacology; Wound healing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Polarity / drug effects
  • Coumarins / analysis
  • Dioxoles / analysis
  • Eleutherococcus / chemistry*
  • Glucosides / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lignans / analysis
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Phenylpropionates / analysis
  • Plant Bark / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / analysis
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Roots / chemistry*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Coumarins
  • Dioxoles
  • Glucosides
  • Lignans
  • NF-kappa B
  • Phenylpropionates
  • Plant Extracts
  • isofraxidin
  • syringin
  • sesamin