Eleutherococcus senticosus/Acanthopanax senticosus
Araliaceae (Plant Family)
Explored in the 1950s as an alternative to Asian ginseng, which was expensive
and difficult to grow, Siberian ginseng is used today to increase physical and
mental stamina, speed convalescence, and provide resistance to the detrimental
effects of stress. Mirroring the functions of Asian and American ginseng, these
uses also reflect thousands of years' use by the people of Russia and China.
All three types of ginseng occur in the same plant family, Araliaceae. While
their constituents differ, studies conducted in Russia since the late 1950s
conclude that like its distant cousins, Siberian ginseng has similar adaptogenic
functions. Adaptogens increase physiologic resistance to stressors. They also
normalize processes within the body that may have been altered in response to
those stressors, and are nontoxic and nonspecific in action. By 1985, studies of
Siberian ginseng conducted in the Soviet Union, with the involvement of over
4,300 healthy and diseased subjects, confirmed these effects. In 1962,
consequent to approval of 33% alcohol Siberian ginseng extract for human use by
the Pharmacological Committee of USSR Ministry of Health, 3 million Soviets were
estimated to be taking it regularly. Among these were Soviet astronauts and
Olympic team members. Ongoing studies are looking into the effects of ginseng in
terms of its adjunctive therapeutic use for diabetes, infertility,
atherosclerosis and rheumatic heart disease, cancer, and conditions due to
depressed immune function, such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
American and Asian ginsengs are indicated in stress, fatigue, convalescence
and diabetes, and Siberian ginseng in stress, fatigue, atherosclerosis, and
impaired kidney function. Confusion regarding which ginseng to use for stress,
fatigue, and convalescence (American, Asian, or Siberian) stems from the
suggestion that active components in one type are superior to those in another
type, e.g., ginsenosides versus eleutherosides. Such superiority has not been
demonstrated. Early Russian studies indicated that Siberian ginseng's positive
effects exceed those of Asian ginseng's. These results are supported by
empirical reports, but are challenged by investigators who question the validity
of the studies and the quality of the Siberian ginseng preparation. At this
time, all three ginsengs are regarded as adaptogens, all three share
contraindication and side effect profiles, and despite qualitative differences,
each is used for similar indications. Cost, standardization, and the reputation
of the manufacturer may be the deciding points in determining which product to
Siberian ginseng is cultivated from a shrub that grows one to three meters in
height. Palmate leaves with five serrated, thorny-veined leaflets are attached
to long petioles that are covered with bristles. Petioles are attached to stems,
which are noted for their backward-pointing prickles. Stem bark is gray-brown.
Flowers grow in umbels from a peduncle; male flowers are violet, female
flowers, yellow. These produce round black berries.
The Siberian ginseng root is 1.5 to 4 cm long, brown to brownish gray, with
lengthwise wrinkles. It is twisted, variably branched with a few rootlets. It
smells aromatic and tastes bitter and astringent.
Root contains 0.6% to 0.9% eleutheroside components common to many plant
species. Many are glycosides. Eleutheroside A is a sterol (daucosterol); B is a
phenylopropanoid (syringin); B1 (isofraxidin) and B3 are coumarins; C is a
monosaccharide (methyl-alpha-D-galactoside); B4, D, and E (acanthoside D) are
lignans; and I, K, L, and M are triterpene saponins. Root also contains
aglycones, polysaccharide glycans (eleuthocans A-G) and various sugars,
phenylpropanoids, oleanolic acid, dihydroxybenzoic acid (DBA), and volatile oil.
- Crude drug (bark, whole root, and rhizome)
- Aqueous-alcohol liquid extracts
- Solid extracts
- To treat insomnia
- To enhance virility
- To increase the body's resistance to stress
- Impaired kidney function
- Lower back/kidney pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Blood pressure disorders
- Symptoms of coronary atherosclerosis
- Symptoms of radiotherapy- and chemotherapy-induced leukopenia
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Diminished capacity for work or concentration
- To help during convalescence
Siberian ginseng has normalizing, stress-resistant, and immune stimulant
effects. In studies involving over 4,300 subjects, Siberian ginseng was
administered orally to determine its effects on disease, or to assess its
ability to help the body tolerate stress. Subjects who had atherosclerosis,
pyelonephritis, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypotension, craniocerebral
trauma, neurosis, rheumatic heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary
tuberculosis noted overall improvements in their condition. Healthy subjects in
these studies were exposed to extremes in temperature, sound, working
conditions, exercise, and deep-sea diving decompression. They noted enhanced
physical labor and stamina, mental concentration and acuity. They were better
able to tolerate extreme conditions, had improved capillary function, and
improved resistance to hypoxemia. New blood formation was enhanced in blood
donors. In both healthy and nonhealthy subjects, a 33% alcohol extract was used,
for up to 39 days followed by a two-to-three week break if the study was to be
Immune stimulant effects, noted through increases in lymphocyte count
(particularly T-lymphocytes) were reported in a double-blind, placebo-controlled
study of healthy subjects.
In studies in animals, Siberian ginseng polysaccharides were
immunostimulating. Intraperitoneal injection resulted in eleutheran-stimulated
hypoglycemia in alloxan-induced hyperglycemic mice. DBACK reduced collagen- and
ADP-induced platelet aggregation comparably to aspirin.
Infusions of Siberian ginseng increased stress resistance in rats and
improved work performance in mice. Intraperitoneal injections increased
gonadotrophic action in both male and female mice. Mineralcorticoid,
glucocorticoid, and steroid receptor binding was observed. Siberian ginseng had
sedative and CNS stimulant effects.
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
- Dried root (tea, or in capsules): 2 to 3 g daily or equivalent
- Tincture: 5 ml tid
- 33% aqueous-alcohol extract, 2 to 4 ml, one to three times daily
- Solid extract (dried, powdered), with at least 1% eleutheroside F:
100 to 200 mg tid
Note: Take before 3 p.m. to avoid insomnia. A three-month course, followed by
a two-to-three week Siberian ginseng–free interval, or
occasional use for one month, followed by two-month Siberian
ginseng–free intervals, should be observed.
American Herbal Products Association safely rating: class 1 (safe with
appropriate use); German Commission E lists no side effects. High doses (4.5 to
5 ml tid) may cause insomnia, irritability, melancholy, anxiety; in studies
conducted in the Soviet Union, some patients with rheumatic heart disease noted
pericardial pain, high blood pressure, headaches, and palpitations.
Hypertension (>180/90 mm Hg) contraindicates use. Although studies in
animals suggest Siberian ginseng is nonteratogenic, its safety during pregnancy
has not been determined.
Siberian ginseng reportedly elevated synthetic digoxin drug levels causing no
toxic effects (McRae 1996). The mechanism for this apparent interaction may be
conversion in vivo of a component of ginseng to digoxin, interference with
digoxin elimination, or digoxin assay. However, based on previously documented
adulteration, it is possible that the commercial E. senticosus product
used was actually Periploca sepium, which is known to
contain cardiac glycosides (Awang 1996).
|Regulatory and Compendial
U.S. FDA: dietary supplement; German Commission E: approved for
nonprescription use; not licensed through the General Sale List in the United
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