Siberian Ginseng Eleuthero (dried leaf -powdered leaf)
Eleutherococcus senticosus is the plant commonly referred to as Eleuthero and Siberian Ginseng. It is a member of the Araliaceae or ginseng family.
Eleutherococcus senticosus; Acanthopanax senticosus
Although it has been used for centuries in Asia, Siberian Ginseng became known to Western Medicine in the1950’s as the root that supposedly enhanced the performances of Russia’s elite athletes. Eleuthero, as it is more correctly known, grows as a deciduous shrub in the eastern most areas of Russia, Japan, China and Northeastern Asia, with hermaphroditic flowers and black berries appearing later in the summer. Despite its short history of use in Western herbal medicine, Eleuthero is quickly gaining credibility for its adaptogenic properties and as a cheaper alternative to Chinese ginseng (and although they have some common uses and properties, the active components of each differ). Siberian Ginseng is not a true member of the panax family, but of the evolutionary distinct araliaceae family and it is thought that its being labeled as ginseng is nothing more than a misnomer arising due to their similarities. The roots of both plants are used—but in Siberian Ginseng, the roots are woody, twisted and brown.
An adaptogen is a non-medical term for a substance that is harmless when consumed, has a general, non-specific effect, increases the body’s resistance to physical and mental stress, and acts as a general modulator/normalize to the body as needed. Siberian Ginseng is best known for its adaptogenic effects, and much research supports its use in treating colds, influenza, and for improving mental and physical abilities for athletes, older adults and people under chronic stress or fatigue. In Chinese medicine, it is used to raise Qi and treat Yang deficiencies. The active components of Siberian Ginseng are thought to be eleutherosides. Eleutherosides A-M are found concentrated mainly in the roots, while eleutherosides I, K, L, and M have also been found in the leaves. Other phytochemicals identified in the roots are ciwujianosides (act to dry mucous membranes as saponins), eleutherans (polysaccharides), beta sitosterol, isofraxidin (a coumarin derivative), syringin, chlorogenic acid,3 sesamin2 (lignans), and friedelin (triterpene).
Most studies on the effects of Eleuthero have been conducted in Russia, and many of these have to do with the effects of the herb on athletic performance. Some studies have found enhanced performance in athletes taking Eleuthero as compared to placebo—for example increased resistance to hypoxemia and improved ability to adapt to intense exercise demands in male skiers, shorter race times for runners in a 10km race, and others have shown improved work performance as measured by increased oxygen uptake, oxygen pulse, work performance and delayed exhaustion time. Other rigorous placebo-controlled studies have failed to show a significant difference. In terms of immune system enhancement, Siberian Ginseng significantly increases total lymphocyte counts, T cell suppressors, Helper T cells, natural killer cells and B lymphocytes in comparison to placebo. Eleuthero is often taken for colds, influenza and upper respiratory tract infections to speed recovery and boost immune response (to that effect, a Russian study involving 838 children found that children taking Eleuthero were sick less often with pneumonia and had healthier immune responses to infection). Although mixed results have been found for reducing chronic fatigue, there is good evidence to support the use of this root for chronic, prolonged stress. Some research suggests that Siberian Ginseng may also improve subjective feelings of happiness, or quality of life, in older adults if taken for a few weeks at a time. This may be because the active constituents influence the stress-response areas of the central nervous system, releasing dopamine to produce a euphoric feeling that can lead to improved moods, work performance and mental alertness (preliminary animal studies can also support these effects). Preliminary studies also suggest that Siberian Ginseng may be cardio-protective, osteoarthritis protective, decrease plasma glucose levels, increase insulin secretion, fight fatigue and promote increased physical endurance. People have also historically used Eleuthero to promote male and female fertility, especially as it may be a uterine stimulant (and thus may be helpful for alleviating menopausal symptoms).
To prepare a cup of ginseng tea, use 3 to 5 slices of the root, cover with boiling water and let steep at least five minutes. Alternatively, a decoction can be made by boiling, and then simmering the root for 15-25 minutes (this method is more effective for extracting some of the active constituents that need to be released by heat, especially considering that this is a tough, woody root). Powdered root can be added to smoothies, soups etc. This herb can also be taken as a tincture, or in capsules. The effects of the herb are more potent if used daily for short periods of time and tend to diminish with time, so it is recommended that a drug-free holiday if use is to be continued.
SIDE EFFECTS ARE RARE UNLESS SIBERIAN GINSENG IS TAKEN IN VERY HIGH AMOUNTS. THESE MAY INCLUDE SLIGHT DROWSINESS, ANXIETY, IRRITABILITY, MELANCHOLY, DIARRHEA, MASTALGIA AND UTERINE BLEEDING. LONG TERM USE MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH AGGRAVATED SCIATIC NERVE PAIN. SIBERIAN GINSENG MAY HAVE HYPOGLYCEMIC EFFECTS THUS DIABETICS SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS WHEN TAKING THIS AS A SUPPLEMENT. CONCOMMITENT USE OF THIS HEREWITH OTHER HERBS OR MEDICATIONS ALTERING PLATELET AGGREGATION COULD THEORETICALLY INCREASE THE RISK OF BLEEDING. SOME CYTOCHROME P450 MEDICATIONS MAY ALSO BE ALTERED BY THE USE OF THIS HERB, INCLUDING 1A2 AND 2C9 SUSBSTRATES SUCH AS CLOZAPINE, IMIPRAMINE, PENTAZOCINE, PROPANOLOL, AMITRIPTYLINE, WARFARIN, VERAPAMIL AND DIAZEPAM. ALCOHOL AND CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DEPRESSANTS MAY THEORETICALLY INCREASE THE SEDATIVE EFFECTS OF SIBERIAN GINSENG. PATIENTS TAKING LITHIUM MAY NEED TO READJUST MEDICATION DOSAGES DUE TO THE POTENTIAL DIURETIC EFFECTS OF SIBERIAN GINSENG AND THE POTENTIAL TO RAISE BLOOD LEVELS OF LITHIUM.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Canadian Food & Drug Administration.
Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.) Distinctly Tea Inc.
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“Cardioprotective and antiarrhythmic properties of preparations from Leuzea carthamoides, Aralia mandshurica, and Eleutherococcus senticosus”. Maslov LN, Guzarova NV. Eksp Klin Farmakol. 2007 Nov-Dec;70(6):48-54.
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“Effects of various Eleutherococcus senticosus cortex on swimming time, natural killer activity and corticosterone level in forced swimming stressed mice”. Kimura Y, Sumiyoshi M. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Dec;95(2-3):447-53.
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“Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. & Maxim.) Maxim. (Araliaceae) as an adaptogen: a closer look”. Davydov M, Krikorian AD. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;72:345-393.
“Extract from Acanthopanax senticosus harms (Siberian ginseng) activates NTS and SON/PVN in the rat brain”. Soya H, Deocaris CC, Yamaguchi K, Ohiwa N, Saito T, Nishijima T, Kato M, Tateoka M, Matsui T, Okamoto M, Fujikawa T. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Sep;72(9):2476-80. Epub 2008 Sep 7.
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“Release of acetylcholine by syringin, an active principle of Eleutherococcus senticosus, to raise insulin secretion inWistar rats”. Liu KY,Wu YC, Liu IM, YuWC, Cheng JT. Neurosci Lett. 2008 Mar 28;434(2):195-9. Epub 2008 Jan 31.
Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.)