Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng, (Eleutherococcus senticosus), also known as Russian Ginseng, is a herb native to the forests of Siberia and other regions of Eastern Asia, including China, Japan and Korea. Despite its name, Siberian ginseng is not botanically related to true ginseng (Panax ginseng) but is often referred to as “ginseng” due to its similar adaptogenic properties and historical use in traditional medicine.

Active Ingredients in Siberian Ginseng

Key components of Siberian ginseng include; eleutherosides (eleutheroside B and eleutheroside E), polysaccharides, triterpenoid saponins, flavonoids, phenolic compounds and other bioactive compounds. These constituents are believed to contribute to the herb’s pharmacological effects.

History of Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng has been used in China for 2000 years as a folk remedy for bronchitis, heart ailments, and rheumatism, and as a tonic to restore vigour, improve general health, restore memory, promote healthy appetite, and increase stamina. It was used as a cheaper version of Ginseng than Asian Ginseng. Referred to as ci wu ju in Chinese medicine, it was used to prevent respiratory tract infections as well as colds and flu. It was also believed to provide energy and vitality.

In Russia, Eleuthero was originally used by people in the Taiga region of Siberia to increase performance and quality of life and to decrease infections.

Health Benefits of Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng is a relatively new addition to Western natural medicine, and has quickly gained a reputation similar to that of the better known and more expensive Asian Ginseng. Unlike many herbs with a medicinal use, it is more useful for maintaining good health rather than treating ill-health.

Siberian ginseng has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and Russian folk medicine for its purported health benefits. The root and root bark of Siberian ginseng are the parts of the plant commonly used for medicinal purposes. Siberian ginseng is classified as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to various stressors and promotes overall resilience and well-being.

Although a relatively new addition to Western natural medicine, it has quickly gained a reputation similar to that of the better known and more expensive Korean Ginseng. Unlike many herbs with a medicinal use, it is more useful for maintaining good health rather than treating ill-health. Research has shown that it stimulates resistance to stress and so it is now widely used as a tonic in times of stress and pressure. Regular use is said to restore vigour, improve the memory and increase longevity. It has been used during convalescence and in the treatment of menopausal problems, geriatric debility, physical and mental stress.

Research has shown that Siberian Ginseng stimulates resistance to stress and so it is now widely used as a tonic in times of stress and pressure. Regular use is said to restore vigour, improve the memory and increase longevity. It has been used during convalescence and in the treatment of menopausal problems, geriatric debility, physical and mental stress and a wealth of other ailments.

Siberian ginseng is used for a variety of purposes, including:

Adaptogenic Properties: Siberian ginseng is prized for its adaptogenic properties, which help the body cope with physical, mental, and environmental stressors. It is believed to support adrenal function and help regulate the body’s stress response, leading to improved resilience, energy levels, and overall vitality.

Enhanced Physical Performance: Siberian ginseng is sometimes used by athletes and individuals seeking to enhance physical performance and endurance. It is believed to increase stamina, reduce fatigue, and improve exercise tolerance, potentially by enhancing oxygen utilization and supporting energy metabolism.

Immune Support: Siberian ginseng is traditionally used to strengthen the immune system and promote resistance to infections and illnesses. It is believed to stimulate immune cell activity, enhance antibody production, and support overall immune function, helping to prevent recurrent infections and improve recovery from illness.

Mental Clarity and Cognitive Function: Siberian ginseng is often used to enhance mental clarity, focus, and cognitive function. It is believed to support brain health, improve memory and concentration, and enhance overall cognitive performance, especially during periods of mental fatigue or stress.

Support for Fatigue and Exhaustion: Siberian ginseng is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, and general weakness. It is believed to increase energy levels, reduce feelings of tiredness, and improve overall vitality and well-being.

Stress Management: Siberian ginseng is valued for its ability to help manage stress and promote a sense of calmness and relaxation. It is believed to modulate stress hormones, such as cortisol, and promote a balanced stress response, helping individuals adapt more effectively to stressful situations.

Siberian Ginseng Usage by Soviet Olympic Athletes

The ability of Siberian Ginseng to increase stamina and endurance led Soviet Olympic athletes to use it to enhance their training. Siberian ginseng, popular among Soviet Olympic athletes during the Cold War, was believed to enhance athletic performance and overall well-being. It was thought to increase stamina and endurance, speed up recovery, strengthen the immune system, and improve mental focus and clarity. Athletes used it to train harder, recover faster, and maintain peak performance during competitions.

While its benefits were largely anecdotal, Siberian ginseng gained widespread use in sports training programs. However, more research is needed to understand its impact on athletic performance conclusively.

Siberian Ginseng to Combat Stress

Explorers, divers, sailors and miners used Eleuthero to prevent stress-related illness. Siberian ginseng is an adaptogenic herb believed to combat stress by regulating stress hormones, enhancing energy levels, supporting adrenal function, improving cognitive function, boosting immune function and promoting relaxation. Its adaptogenic properties help the body cope with stressors more effectively, promoting resilience and overall well-being.

Siberian Ginseng for Body Detox and Fighting Infections

Siberian Ginseng reduces stress on the body is to combat harmful toxins. Siberian Ginseng has shown a protective effect in animal studies, against chemicals such as; ethanol, sodium barbital , tetanus toxoid and chemotherapeutic agents. Siberian Ginseng’s active ingredients may be of use in combating herpes simplex type II infections, and can also reduce the side effects of radiation exposure, which we will explore in more detail below.

Siberian Ginseng to Combat Radiation

After the Chernobyl accident, many Siberian citizens were given Siberian Ginseng to counteract the effects of radiation. Siberian Ginseng was reportedly used by some individuals involved in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for its potential radio-protective properties. It was believed that Siberian Ginseng could help mitigate the effects of radiation exposure and support overall health during the cleanup efforts and recovery process.

The adaptogenic properties of Siberian Ginseng were thought to bolster the body’s resilience to stress, including the stress caused by radiation exposure. However, it’s important to note that the use of Siberian Ginseng in this context was based on anecdotal evidence and traditional beliefs rather than scientific research.

As an interesting side note, Iodine is effective at combating the effects of radiation exposure.

Adaptogenic Effects of Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng is considered an adaptogen as it raises resistance to various negative factors; physical, chemical, biological and psychological. Adaptogens stimulate physical and mental ability and raise the resistance to various kinds of sicknesses, poisoning and irradiation. They stimulate the central nervous system’s sex glands activity, decrease sugar and cholesterol level in blood, improve appetite and sharpen sight and hearing.

Siberian Ginseng produces a comprehensive strengthening and toning impact; it has been recommended in treating various diseases including; neural diseases, impotence, lung ailments, medium forms of diabetes mellitus and malignant tumours.

Anti-Cancer Effects of Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng has been shown to have neuro-protective effects against breast (mammary gland) carcinoma, stomach carcinoma, oral cavity carcinoma, skin melanoma and ovarian carcinoma. It was found to have a pronounced effect on T lymphocytes, predominantly of the helper/inducer type, but also on cytotoxic and natural killer cells.

Siberian Ginseng is now used in the support of cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, especially in Germany. Studies have shown that E.S., when administered to patients, drastically reduces the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy (e.g., nausea, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and loss of appetite).

Other research with cancer patients has linked Siberian Ginseng with improved healing and recovery times, increased weight gain, and improved immune cell counts. In Russia, the administration of Siberian Ginseng to cancer patients seemed to permit larger than normal doses of drugs utilised in chemotherapy, thus speeding treatment periods.

Siberian Ginseng Research

The results of pharmacological investigations of Siberian Ginseng have been summarised by I. V. Dardymov and E. l. Khasina (1993) in their book. The authors postulate postulate that effects of Siberian Ginseng on the body, which involve an energy-mobilising impact primarily through intensified utilisation of glucose and a stress-protective effect conditioned by change in central nervous system and hormonal regulation.

In an alarming situation, the adrenal glands release corticosteroids and adrenaline which prepare the organism for the fight or flight reaction. When these hormones are depleted, the organism reaches an exhaustive phase. Siberian Ginseng delays the exhaustive phase and can allow a more economical and efficient release of these hormones.

Germany’s Commission E approved Siberian Ginseng as a tonic in times of fatigue and debility, declining capacity for work or concentration, and during convalescence. Other uses for Siberian Ginseng are for chronic inflammatory conditions and traditionally for functional asthenia (Bruneton, 1995). Siberian Ginseng has also been reported to increase stamina and endurance and protect the body systems against stress-induced illness and fatigue.

Siberian Ginseng has been shown to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance without the letdown that comes with caffeinated products. Research has shown that Siberian Ginseng improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle. This means that a person is able to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recovery from workouts is much quicker.

Other findings that are more positive have resulted from animal and human studies of Siberian Ginseng, other potential effects. Chemicals in Siberian Ginseng appear to produce moderate reductions in blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels and modest improvements in memory and concentration. Siberian Ginseng may also have mild estrogenic effects. In laboratory studies, various chemicals found in Siberian Ginseng have also shown antiviral and anticancer properties, but these effects have not been well studied in humans.

Several studies were conducted to evaluate the effects of Siberian Ginseng on eye conditions and color distinction. One study evaluated the pre and postoperative effects of Siberian Ginseng extract (1.5 ml twice daily) on 282 male or female patients suffering from primary glaucoma (102 cases) and eye burns (58 cases). Beneficial effects were noted in both treatments. Siberian Ginseng was also found beneficial in 122 cases of myopia treatment (Zaikova, 1968).

In 50 patients with normal trichromatic vision a single dose of Siberian Ginseng extract (2 ml) stimulated color distinction (red and green) within 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion. Maximum effect was reached in six to seven hours and persisted for a minimum of 29 hours (Sosnova, 1969).

Siberian Ginseng to Stimulate the Immune System

Evidence is also mounting that Siberian Ginseng enhances and supports the immune response. Siberian Ginseng may be useful as a preventive measure during cold and flu season. Recent evidence also suggests that Siberian Ginseng may prove valuable in the long-term management of various diseases of the immune system, including HIV infection, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune illnesses such as lupus.

In perhaps the most convincing study carried out so far, B. Bohn and co-workers in Heidelberg, West Germany looked at immune parameters in 18 individuals in a randomised, double-blind fashion for a total of four weeks. The subjects in this study had venous blood drawn both before and after Eleutherococcus Senticosus administration, and the samples were analysed by flow cytometry, which counted absolute numbers of immune cells present in their blood.

Overall, the Eleutherococcus Senticosus group showed an absolute increase in all immune cells measured. Total T-cell numbers advanced by 78 per cent, T helper/inducer cells went up by 80 per cent, cytotoxic Ts by 67 percent, and NK cells by 30 per cent, compared to the control group. B Lymphocytes, which are cells that produce antibodies against infectious organisms, expanded by 22 per cent in the Eleutherococcus Senticosus subjects, compared to controls. Most importantly, no side effects were noted in the Eleutherococcus Senticosus subjects up to five months after Eleutherococcus Senticosus administration ended.

The researchers stated: ‘We conclude from our data that Eleutherococcus senticosus exerts a strong immunomodulatory effect in healthy normal subjects.’ The Bohn study has caused drug companies to spend millions of dollars in an effort to get Eleutherococcus Senticosus approved as a drug by the FDA in the States.

The increases in T, B, and NK cells in people given Eleutherococcus Senticosus suggest that it could be very useful in alleviating immune suppression associated with strenuous exercise. In addition, one might speculate about a positive effect of Eleutherococcus Senticosus in the very early stages of HIV (AIDS-virus) infection. In an HIV-infected patient, Eleutherococcus Senticosus might prevent or retard the spread of the virus, thanks to the synergistic positive actions of elevated numbers of both helper and cytotoxic T cells.

How does Eleutherococcus Senticosus actually spur the immune system to greater activity? At present, there is no consensus. Some researchers believe that Eleutherococcus Senticosus induces increased interferon biosynthesis (interferon is a powerful chemical which boosts immune-system activity), while others believe that polysaccharides (long-chain sugar molecules) naturally found in Eleutherococcus Senticosus stimulate the activity of special white blood cells called macrophages.

These macrophages play a number of roles in the immune system, including the breakdown of infected cells and the stimulation of other immune cells. However, the polysaccharides are probably ‘nonspecific’ immune stimulants, which means that their effectiveness fades fairly quickly and that they must be administered continuously or at regular intervals in order to produce a positive effect.

Siberian Ginseng – Athletes & Antibiotics

Why should athletes try to stimulate their own immune systems, rather than rely on antibiotics and other remedies to control infections? Obviously, prevention of infection can promote more consistent, high-quality training and lower the risk of missed competitions. In addition, many microorganisms are now resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics. That means that an infection picked up during heavy training may be more difficult to shake off than ever before.

Some of the more notable antibiotic-resistant organisms include Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes ‘strep throat’, upper respiratory infections, and is reported to be resistant to both penicillin and chloramphenicol. Another common bacterial species, Haemophilus influenzae, which produces both ear and upper-respiratory tract infections, is now resistant to a variety of antibiotics, including chloramphenicol, ampicillin, and tetracycline.

Staphylococcus aureus, which causes ‘staph infections’ of the skin, especially around surgical wounds, is resistant to erythromycin, tetracycline, and the so-called B-lactam antibiotics. Finally, certain strains of Escherichia coli, which have caused deaths in recent incidents when customers of restaurants have consumed contaminated or poorly cooked meat, are resistant to a variety of different drugs.

Investigators in the US recently completed a pilot study in which Eleutherococcus Senticosus extract was given to AIDS patients in hopes of improving their immune-system functioning and overall survivability. The results were very promising, and so a four-city, randomised, double-blind, clinical trial will be carried out with Eleutherococcus Senticosus in the near future.

Extracts of Eleutherococcus senticosus appear to have the ability to prevent immune suppression in vigorously training athletes and may limit the risk of infection. By boosting recovery following hard workouts, E. senticosus may also downgrade athletes’ chances of overtraining.

There is a relatively small number of controlled clinical trials performed with Siberian Ginseng. A single-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial lasting eight days investigated the effect of Siberian Ginseng extract (2 ml, twice daily) on working capacity, and fatigue of six male athletes, aged 21-22. Oxygen uptake, heart rate, total work, and exhaustion time were measured. Significant results were observed in all parameters, particularly the 23.3% increase in total work noted in the Siberian Ginseng test group compared with 7.5% of the placebo group (Asano, 1986).

An eight-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluated the efficacy of Siberian Ginseng extract (3.4 ml daily) on submaximal and maximal exercise performance of 20 highly trained distance runners. No significant difference was observed between test and control groups in heart rate, oxygen consumption, expired minute volume, respiratory exchange ratio, perceived exertion, and serum lactate levels (Dowling, 1996).

How To Take Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng is available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, tinctures and teas. It is generally considered safe for most people when used appropriately and in recommended doses. However, Siberian ginseng may interact with certain medications and may not be suitable for individuals with certain health conditions.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Siberian Ginseng Herb Notes / Side Effects

Siberian Ginseng is different from both American Ginseng and Asian Panax Ginseng. They are not interchangeable.

Reported side effects have been minimal with use of Siberian Ginseng. Mild, transient diarrhoea has been reported in a very small number of users.

Siberian Ginseng may:

Cause insomnia in some people if taken too close to bedtime.
Interact with certain medications, such as sedatives, barbiturates and anti-psychotic drugs.
Cause an increase in the effects of oral anti-diabetic medications.

Diabetic patients should ingest it solely under medical supervision.

When to Avoid Siberian Ginseng:

  • in pregnancy and lactation.
  • use in patients with high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease.
  • combining this herb with other plants or substances that have a stimulating effect upon the central nervous system, such as Guaraná, Coffee, Ephedra (Ma Huang), mate or black tea.
  • use during acute phase of infections.
  • use at night in patients suffering from insomnia.

This herb is not prescribed for children, and should not be used for more than 3 weeks at one time. Avoid caffeine when using this herb.

As with any herbal supplement, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting Siberian ginseng supplementation if you have underlying health concerns or are taking medications.

Latin Name

Eleutherococcus senticosus, Acanthopanax senticosus

Common Names

Ci Wu Jia, Devil’s Bush, Eleuthero, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Russian Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Russian Root, Shigoka, Taiga, Thorny Pepperbush, Touch-Me-Not, Wild Pepper

Properties of Siberian Ginseng

Adaptogenic, anti-aggregatory, anti-diabetic, anti-edema, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative effects on leukemia cells in vitro (Bradley, 1992; Hacker and Medon, 1984), anti-stress (Takasugi, 1985), endocrine, endurance-enhancing, hypoglycaemic, hypertensive, immunomodulator, immunoprotective, immunostimulant, platelet aggregation-inhibiting, radiation protection (Yonezawa, 1989), restorative, stimulant, tonic, vasodilator.

Siberian Ginseng is Indicated for:

Addictions, Alzheimer’s disease, athletic support, bone cancer, boosting immune system, breast carcinoma, bronchitis, cardiovascular health, chemotherapy support, chronic fatigue syndrome, countering athletic fatigue, depression, diabetes mellitus, energy and vitality, enhancing vision,enhancing resilience, exhaustion and debility, fatigue, fibromyalgia, hantavirus, heart ailments, herpes, HIV support, Hodgkin’s disease, impotence, improving athletic working capacity, general health & mental resilience, increasing stamina, physical endurance under stress & mental alertness, infections, influenza, kidney cancer, lung ailments, maintaining well-being, malignant tumours, memory, myopia, neural diseases, oral cavity carcinoma, ovarian carcinoma, preventing respiratory tract infections, colds & flu, promoting healthy appetite, protection from toxins, radiation, reduce the effects of physical stress, rejuvenation, rheumatism, restore vigour, sore throat, skin melanoma, stomach carcinoma, stress, supporting the endocrine system.

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