|| Eleutherococcus senticosus/Acanthopanax
Eleuthero, which is known in the United States as Siberian ginseng, has been
used for centuries in China and Russia. Although a distant relative of American
and Asian ginsengs (Panax sp.), with some overlap in its uses,
Siberian ginseng is a distinct plant with different active chemical components.
Prized for its ability to restore vigor, increase longevity, enhance overall
health, and stimulate both a healthy appetite and a good memory, it is widely
used in Russia to help the body adapt to stressful conditions and to enhance
In Chinese medicine, it is valued for its beneficial effects on "qi" and its
ability to treat "yang" deficiency in the spleen and kidney. Like the panax
ginsengs, Siberian ginseng is considered to be an adaptogen, which means that it
helps in stressful circumstances and also helps return the body to a normal
balance. So, for example, an adaptogen might lower blood pressure in someone who
has high blood pressure, but raise it in another person who has low blood
pressure. The active ingredients in Siberian ginseng, eleutherosides (similar to
ginsenosides in the panax species), are thought to increase stamina and to
stimulate the immune system.
Until recently, most scientific research on Siberian ginseng took place in
Russia. This research has largely supported its use to maintain health and
strengthen the system rather than to treat particular disorders. Siberian
ginseng may help the body deal with physically and mentally stressful exposures
such as heat, cold, physical exhaustion, viruses, bacteria, chemicals, extreme
working conditions, noise, and pollution. By strengthening the system, it may
also help prevent illness.
Research on Siberian ginseng has included studies on the following:
A 4-week study in healthy subjects found that
those who received Siberian ginseng extract had improvements in a number of
measures that reflect the functioning of the immune system.
A 3-month human study of Siberian ginseng
among middle aged volunteers found that there was a significant improvement in
memory and concentration as compared to placebo.
Another popular but unproven use of Siberian ginseng is to maintain or
restore mental alertness.
Although Siberian ginseng is frequently
used to enhance physical stamina and increase muscle strength, studies have
shown mixed results for these purposes.
Siberian ginseng has a long history of
folkloric use for male infertility. Animal studies suggest that Siberian ginseng
may be helpful in increasing reproductive capacity.
In a laboratory study, an extract of Siberian
ginseng slowed the replication of certain viruses, including influenza A (which
causes the flu) as well as human rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus
(both of which cause symptoms of the common cold). It had no effect, however, in
test tubes on adenovirus (another cause of the common cold and other respiratory
infections) or herpes simplex virus type 1 (which generally causes oral herpes
lesions). But, a 6-month study of 93 people with herpes simplex virus type 2
(which generally causes genital herpes lesions) found that Siberian ginseng
reduced frequency, severity, and duration of outbreaks. Talk to your doctor
about whether it is safe or appropriate for you to use Siberian ginseng to try
to prevent herpes outbreaks.
Siberian ginseng is a shrub that grows 3 to 10 feet high. Its leaves are
attached to a main stem by long branches. Both the branches and the stem are
covered with thorns. Flowers, yellow or violet, grow in umbrella-shaped
clusters, and turn into round, black berries in late summer. The root itself is
woody and is brownish, wrinkled, and twisted.
|What's It Made Of?|
Siberian ginseng products are made from the root. The root contains a mixture
of components, common to many plants but occurring together in Siberian ginseng,
called eleutherosides. Among the other ingredients are chemicals called
polysaccharides, which have been found to boost the immune system and lower
blood sugar levels in laboratory studies using animals.
Siberian ginseng is available in liquid extracts, solid extracts, powders,
capsules, and tablets, and as dried or cut root for tea.
It is important to note that there is a wide variation in the quality and
amount of Siberian ginseng found in different products as well as a significant
amount of mislabeling of products containing this herb. In evaluations of
commercial products claiming to have Siberian ginseng, as many as 25% had no
measurable ginseng at all. Plus, many formulas for sale were contaminated with
contents not marked on the label. Care should be taken to purchase Siberian
ginseng products from reputable manufacturers.
|How to Take It|
This herb is generally not recommended for use in pediatric patients because
of concerns about possible stimulant effects. However, some clinicians may
recommend it as a tonic during periods of stress; if so, follow the instructions
carefully of that qualified practitioner. Use for children should be limited to
2 consecutive weeks.
- Dried root: The recommended dose is 500 to 3,000 milligrams dried root
daily (tea, or in capsules).
- Tincture: (herb and alcohol; or herb, alcohol, and water), one
teaspoon three times per day.
- Fluid extract (1:1): 1/2 to 1 tsp. Two to three times per day.
- Extract (33% alcohol extract): 40 to 120 drops one to three times per
- Solid extracts, made from dried, powdered root are also available.
Look for products that contain at least 1% eleutheroside F, and take 100 to 200
mg three times per day.
To increase stamina or resistance to stress, one of the forms recommended
above can be taken for one month on and one month off. For chronic conditions
such as fatigue, Siberian ginseng can be taken for three months, followed by 2
to 3 weeks off. These cycles can be repeated, but this should be done under the
supervision of a healthcare provider.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and
treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger
side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For
these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a
practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) rates Siberian ginseng as a
class 1, which means that it is safe when used as directed. However, it should
not be taken by those with high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea
(repeated, prolonged periods when breathing stops while sleeping), narcolepsy
(frequent day time sleeping), or by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
There has been one case report of a baby developing excessive hair growth,
including in the pubic region. This was attributed to the mother, who was breast
feeding, taking Siberian ginseng. Later, it was discovered that the product she
was taking probably did not contain Siberian ginseng, but rather a contaminant.
More common side effects include high blood pressure, insomnia, drowsiness,
vomiting, headache, confusion, irregular heart rhythm, and nosebleed.
Siberian ginseng should be taken before 3 P.M. to avoid insomnia.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you
should not use Siberian ginseng without first talking to your healthcare
Siberian ginseng may raise blood levels of digoxin, a
medication used to treat heart conditions. This can increase the risk of adverse
side effects from this medication.
Sedatives for Insomnia
Caution should be taken when
considering use of Siberian ginseng with sedatives, primarily barbiturates (a
class of medications including pentobarbital which are used for sleep or
Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston,
Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:124-125.
Bucci LR. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. Am J Clin Nutr.
Fugh-Berman A. Herb-drug interactions. Lancet. 2000;355:134-138.
Glatthaar-Saalmuller B, Sacher F, Esperester A. Antiviral activity of an
extract derived from roots of Eleutherococcus senticosus. Antiviral
Gyllenhaal C, Merritt SL, Peterson SD, Block KI, Gochenour T. Efficacy and
safety of herbal stimulants and sedatives in sleep disorders. Sleep Med
Harkey MR, Henderson GL, Gershwin ME, Stern JS, Hackman RM. Variability in
commercial ginseng products: an analysis of 25 preparations. Am J Clin Nutr.
Kelly GS. Nutritional and botanical interventions to assist with the
adaptation to stress. Alt Med Rev. 1999;4(4):249-265.
Koren G, Randor S, Martin S, Danneman D. Maternal ginseng use associated with
neonatal androgenization [letter]. JAMA. 1990;264(22):2866.
McRae S. Elevated serum digoxin levels in a patient taking digoxin and
Siberian ginseng. Can Med Assoc J.
Miller LG. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on
known or potential drug-herb interactions. Arch Intern Med.
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for
Health Care Professionals. London, England: The Pharmaceutical Press;
Ott BR, Owens NJ. Complementary and alternative medicines for Alzheimer's
disease. J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 1998;11:163-173.
Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York,
NY: Churchill-Livingstone; 1999:433-434;531-532;713-717;1385-1386.
Sinclair S. Male infertility: nutritional and environmental considerations.
Alt Med Rev. 2000;5(1):28-38.
Vogler BK, Pittler MH, Ernst E. The efficacy of ginseng. A systematic review
of randomized clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1999;55:567-575.
White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave
Press; 1998:22, 40.
Williams M. Immuno-protection against herpes simplex type II infection by
eleutherococcus root extract. Int J Alt Comp Med. 1995;13:9-12.
Winther K, Ranlov C, Rein E, Mehlsen J. Russian root (Siberian ginseng)
improves cognitive functions in middle-aged people, whereas Ginkgo biloba seems
effective only in the elderly. J Neurol Sci. 1997;150:S90.
Wong AHC, Smith M, Boon HS. Herbal remedies in psychiatric practice. Arch
Gen Psychiatry. 1998;55:1033-1044.
|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Constance Grauds, RPh (April
1999), President, Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists, San Rafael, CA;
Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley
Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine,
Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson
Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh, Veteran's Administrative Hospital,
Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist,
Inc., Washington, NJ; Elizabeth Wotton, ND (April 1999), private practice,
Sausalito, CA. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of
experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works,
Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown,
CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant
Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000),
Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary &
Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin,
MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for
Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.|
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse
of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed