Siberian Ginseng

Thirty or so species of deciduous, often prickly, shrubs and trees belong to this genus, which occurs in S and E Asia. Eleutherococcus senticosa is easy to grow but seldom seen in Western herb gardens. It does not appear in traditional Russian medicine, but was reseached by the Russian scientists Brekhman and Dardymov from 1960 onward, as part of an extensive study of adaptogenic herbs. Since then it has been widely publicized and marketed as a kind of ginseng. Eleutherococcus senticosus belongs to the same family as true ginsengs (Panax species, see Ginseng) but differs in the form of its saponin glycosides, which are eleutherosides, rather than ginsenosides (or panaxosides). It is also a much larger plant and cheaper to produce. Several species of Eleutherococcus, as well as E. senticosus, are known in Chinese medicine as wu jia pi. They have been used for rheumatic complaints, low vitality, and weak kidney and liver energy for 2000 years, and are regarded as less heating than Panax ginseng (See ginseng).

Siberian ginseng, which originated in the Russian province of Siberia, has long been valued in China as an "adaptogen", an herb that helps people handle physical and emotional stress. Although it is a member of the ginseng family, this herb is not considered a true ginseng because it is of a different genus from the Panax and American varieties. The Siberian ginseng root, which is not harvested until it is at least two years old, is thought to become more effective the older it gets.

Deciduous, suckering shrub, forming large thickets, with thick roots, spiny stems, and dark green, palmately divided leavesm to 15cm (6in) across. Tiny star-shaped flowers appear in rounded umbels in summer, males lilac to purple; females green, followed by blue-black berries.

Common Name:
Siberian Ginseng
Other Names:
Ciwujia, Devil's Bush, Eleuthero, Eleuthero Ginseng, Russian Root, Tartar Root, Untouchable, Urssuri, Wild Pepper, Wu-Jia
Botanical Name:
Acanthopanax senticosus syn Eleutherococcus senticosus
Native Location:
N. Asia
Well-drained, rich, moist soil in sun or partial shade.
By seed sown in spring or autumn (needs stratification); by greenwood cutting in early summer, by root cuttings in winter; by hardwood cuttings, 15-30cm (6-12in) long, in autumn, by suckers in winter or early spring.
Roots are lifted in autumn and dried whole or decorticated. Both roots and root bark are used in decoctions, powder, tablets, teas, and tinctures.
2.5-7m (8-22ft)
In the 1950's Soviet researchers, who had studied the Asian and American ginsengs extensively, discovered an almost identical plant in their own country. Siberian ginseng, which is still the subject of considerable research, became famous when it was mass-produced and used in a popular Russian cola drink called Bodust, for "vigor".
Parts Used:
Roots, root bark, Root rind, fluid extract of root and rhizome.
A pungent, bitter-sweet, warming herb that stimulates the immune and circulatory systems, regulates blood pressure, lowers blood sugar, and reduces inflammation. It is adaptogenic, having a tonic effect on all organs.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for convalescence, menopausal complaints, geriatric debility, physical and mental stress, and insomnia caused by prolonged anxiety. Used in the background treatment of cancer and exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation, and to improve resistance to infection. Not given to children, or taken for longer than six weeks at a time. Contraindicated with caffeine.
To treat artherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), rheumatic heart disease, high blood pressure, and herpes simplex virus type 2; to improve athletic performance and protect against environmental stress. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of Siberian ginseng to treat a tendency toward infections and lack of stamina.
While not a bonafide ginseng, Siberian ginseng has so many of the same therapeutic actions as Asian and American ginsengs that it is used frequently throughout Asia and in other countries as a substitute for the true ginsengs. Like Asian ginseng, Siberian ginseng is an excellent tonic and restorative that helps strengthen all body functions, fights fatigue and illness, and repairs the physical and emotional damage caused by chronic stress. IT also stimulates the production and activity of healthy white blood cells (called lymphocytes) that are essential to fighting infections. However, like American ginseng, Siberian ginseng's therapeutic effects are delivered more gently than those of Asian ginseng, and it is famous for not causing the insomnia and jitteriness that are sometimes associated with the Asian herb. One of Siberian ginseng's most active ingredients, eleutheroside, has been the subject of intense research by Russian and Japanese scientists. Numerous clinical studies suggest that eleutherosides in Siberian ginseng heighten athletic performance by increasing mental acuity, endurance, and strength. The jury is still out on these latter effects, but many athletes do use the herb as a supplement. Siberian ginseng is taken internally for colds, compromised immune systems, depression, fatigue, flu, inflammation, stress and upper respiratory ailments.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of Siberian ginseng to treat herpes simplex type 2 infections is approximately 400 mg of extract (standardized to contain eleutheroside E 0.3 percent).
Possible Side Effects:
Siberian ginseng's side effects include drowsiness, irritability, anxiety, breast pain, and depression.
Drug Interactions:
Taking Siberian with these drugs may increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar):
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlorpropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Gliclazide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Glyburide and Metformin, (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
Taking Siberian ginseng with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Alteplase, (Activase, Cathflo Activase)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Drotrecogin Alfa, (Xigris)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Ibritumomab, (Zevalin)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Retaplase, (Retavase)
Streptokinase, (Streptase)
Tenecteplase, (TNKase)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking Siberian with this drug may be harmful:
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)—may increase blood levels of the drug.
Lab Test Alterations:
  • May decrease blood glucose concentrations.
  • May increase serum androstenedione.
Disease Effects:
  • May worsen cardiovascular ailments by triggering elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, or irregular heartbeat.
  • May worsen hypertension.
  • This herb may have estrogen-like effects and should not be used by women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive conditions.
Supplement Interactions:
  • Increased hypertension, central nervous system stimulation, and risk of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias wehn taken with Ma-Huang.
  • May increase blood glucose-lowering effects and risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when used with herbs and supplements that lower glucose levels, such as alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, Devil's Claw, Panax Ginseng, and Psyllium.
  • Increased risk of bleeding when used with herbs and supplements that might effect platelet aggregation, such as Angelica, Danshen, Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo Biloba, Red Clover, Turmeric, White Willow.
  • May enhance therapeutic and adverse effects of herbs and supplements that have sedative properties, such as 5-HTP, Kava-Kava, St. John's Wort, and Valerian.
Culinary Uses:
Young leaves are cooked as a potherb or dried for making tea.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pps. 98, 200-201
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD. Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.246-248
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp.66-68