What Is It?
Guidelines for Use
Possible Side Effects
Famed as an energy tonic in China since ancient times, Siberian ginseng only gained recognition in the West in the 1950s, when a Russian scientist (I. I. Brekhman) reported its notable stress-repelling powers. Healthy men and women taking the Herb were found to better endure physical strain, resist disease, and perform tests of mental sharpness.
Today, Westerners are perhaps most familiar with the plant's botanical cousin Panax ginseng, but Siberian ginseng's apparent ability to fight fatigue and alleviate myriad ailments has earned it an enthusiastic following. Many people use it the way traditional Chinese healers do--to reinforce the body's vital energy (what the Chinese call qi). Others take it to enhance memory and ward off colds and flu. In Russia, millions of people use the herb as a general tonic.
Also known as eleuthero, supplements of the herb are made from the dried root of Eleutherococcus senticosus, a plant indigenous to China, Japan, Korea, and Siberia.
Siberian ginseng contains remarkable compounds that favorably affect the adrenal glands, the small glands that rest atop the kidneys and secrete stress-fighting hormones. Taking the herb is believed to boost the body's capacity to handle physical stresses ranging from heat exposure to extreme exertion. Resistance to disease increases as well. So does one's overall energy level.
Specifically, Siberian ginseng may help to:
- Prevent stress-related illnesses. Several studies have shown that Siberian ginseng can increase a person's resistance to physical stresses. In a series of landmark Russian studies in the 1960s, 2,100 healthy adults (19 to 72 years old) given Siberian ginseng were shown to better handle stressful conditions. Specifically, they experienced an increased ability to perform physical labor, withstand motion sickness, and work with speed and precision despite being surrounded by noise. They could also proofread documents more accurately and more readily adapt to such physical stresses such as heat, high altitudes, and low-oxygen environments. Siberian ginseng may also help boost people’s immunity if their immune systems are already compromised. A study on women undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer found that in the 4 weeks after chemo treatment various measures of cellular immunity were improved (1). These results are far from conclusive, but they may some day offer hope to those battling the effects of chemotherapy.
- Relieve chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia. Because Siberian ginseng bolsters the adrenal glands, it's worth trying to relieve the exhaustion and muscle pain associated with these energy-depleting conditions. A study of 96 chronic fatigue sufferers found that Siberian ginseng may be efficacious for people suffering from moderate CFS (2).
- Combat fatigue and restore energy. Siberian ginseng is popular for invigorating and fortifying the body. It appears to boost energy levels in people suffering from acute or constant exhaustion (3). Those recovering from an illness or weary from a heavy work schedule may also benefit from its energy-boosting and immune-enhancing powers. For otherwise healthy individuals--even athletes--the story is a little different, however. In one study, 20 highly trained distance runners given Siberian ginseng failed to outperform similarly conditioned runners given a Placebo when both groups raced against each other on treadmills. Not only did the Siberian ginseng-taking runners run no faster, they didn't run for longer either. Overall, the evidence for Siberian ginseng positively effecting exercise endurance is weak (4). The majority of studies on this topic have shown mixed results and very few are large enough or of a high enough quality to prove or disprove benefit (5, 6). More research is necessary before this herb can be recommended as a first line treatment for strength or distance training improvement.
- Increase male and female fertility and reduce male impotence. By supporting healthy uterine function, Siberian ginseng may be useful in preventing female infertility. Males may experience an increased sperm count (rotate it with Panax ginseng for this purpose) (7). Animal studies indicate that the herb can even boost testosterone levels and thus help reverse certain cases of male impotence.
- Relieve menstrual disorders and menopausal symptoms. Siberian ginseng may positively affect Hormone levels and tone the large uterine muscle. These properties make it potentially valuable for easing certain menstrual difficulties and menopausal symptoms.
- Treat Alzheimer's disease. Siberian ginseng may increase mental alertness, particularly in the early stages of this progressive disorder. The herb's ability to boost the transmission of nerve impulses may also enhance memory. A recent small randomized controlled study found that some aspects of mental and social functioning in the elderly improved after treatment with ginseng after only four weeks (8). This study also suggests that these benefits may attenuate with time, so further research will be needed to determine if this effect is true in larger populations.
- Combat free-radical damage and some forms of cancer. Scientists have been able to show that Siberian ginseng has a cytotoxic (cell killing) effect on some cancer cell lines in laboratory studies (9). These preliminary results still need to be investigated in animal and human models, so the chances of seeing Siberian ginseng be touted as a effective cancer treatment is still years away.
- Increase resistance to colds and flu. Historically, the Chinese have found Siberian ginseng to be effective in suppressing colds and flu. The herb's immune-enhancing powers may play a role. Recent studies have found that herbal preparations including Siberian ginseng is a helpful adjunctive treatment to conventional therapies for upper respiratory tract infections (10). Other studies have also shown it to benefit sinusitis (11).
Note: Siberian ginseng has also been found to be useful for a number of other disorders. For information on these additional ailments, see our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Siberian Ginseng.
- dried herb/tea
--Buy Siberian ginseng extracts from a company with a reputation for quality. Products should be standardized to contain at least 0.8% eleutherosides (the active ingredients).
For stress: Take 100 to 200 mg three times a day. Special "adrenal gland" formulas now on the market commonly contain Siberian ginseng in combination with licorice, pantothenic acid, and other stress-fighting ingredients.
For fatigue (and chronic fatigue syndrome), female infertility, Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, and the majority of other conditions mentioned: Take 100 to 300 mg twice a day for 60 to 90 days, and then take a seven-day break before resuming treatment.
For male infertility and impotence: Take l00 to 300 mg twice a day. For infertility, rotate every three weeks with 100 to 250 mg Panax ginseng standardized to contain 7% ginsenosides (the active ingredient). For impotence, rotate every two weeks.
For colds and flu: Take 300 mg twice a day for seven to 10 days.
Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Siberian ginseng, which has therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.
To give your body a rest, take a one- to two-week pause from your Siberian ginseng regimen every three months. (Or ask your doctor about rotating it with other herbs.)
To avoid possible restlessness, don't take Siberian ginseng within an hour of bedtime.
If taking high blood pressure medications (antihypertensives), do not take Siberian ginseng. It should not be taken by people who have Hypertension.
Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs, see our WholeHealthMD Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart.
Siberian ginseng is very safe at recommended doses, even for long-term use.
In rare instances, mild diarrhea may occur.
At very high doses (900 mg daily and higher) insomnia, nervousness, irritability, and anxiety have been reported.
Avoid Siberian ginseng if you have high blood pressure.
Don't take Siberian ginseng while menstruating. Stop taking it if you become pregnant.
1. Kormosh N, Laktionov K, Antoshechkina M. Effect of a combination of Extract from several plants on Cell-mediated and humoral immunity of patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Phytother Res. 2006 May;20(5):424-5.
2.Hartz AJ, Bentler S, Noyes R, Hoehns J, Logemann C, Sinift S, Butani Y, Wang W, Brake K, Ernst M, Kautzman H. Randomized controlled trial of Siberian ginseng for chronic fatigue. Psychol Med.2004 Jan;34(1):51-61.
3. Panossian A, Wagner H. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res. 2005 Oct;19(10):819-38.
4.Goulet ED, Dionne IJ. Assessment of the effects of eleutherococcus senticosus on endurance performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005 Feb;15(1):75-83.
5. Gaffney BT, Hugel HM, Rich PA. The effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus and Panax ginseng on steroidal hormone indices of stress and lymphocyte subset numbers in endurance athletes. Life Sci. 2001 Dec 14;70(4):431-42.
6. Bucci LR. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Aug;72(2 Suppl):624S-36S.
7. Salvati G, Genovesi G, Marcellini L, Paolini P, De Nuccio I, Pepe M, Re M. Effects of Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer saponins on male fertility. Panminerva Med. 1996 Dec;38(4):249-54.
8. Cicero AF, Derosa G, Brillante R, Bernardi R, Nascetti S, Gaddi A. Effects of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus maxim.) on elderly quality of life: a randomized clinical trial. Arch Gerontol Geriatr Suppl. 2004;(9):69-73.
9. Yu CY, Kim SH, Lim JD, Kim MJ, Chung IM. Intraspecific relationship analysis by DNA markers and in vitro cytotoxic and Antioxidant activity in Eleutherococcus senticosus. Toxicol In Vitro. 2003 Apr;17(2):229-36.
10. Narimanian M, Badalyan M, Panosyan V, Gabrielyan E, Panossian A, Wikman G, Wagner H. Randomized trial of a fixed combination (KanJang) of herbal extracts containing Adhatoda vasica, Echinacea purpurea and Eleutherococcus senticosus in patients with upper respiratory tract infections. Phytomedicine. 2005 Aug;12(8):539-47.
11. Gabrielian ES, Shukarian AK, Goukasova GI, Chandanian GL, Panossian AG, Wikman G, Wagner H. A double blind, placebo-controlled study of Andrographis paniculata fixed combination Kan Jang in the treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infections including sinusitis. Phytomedicine. 2002 Oct;9(7):589-97.