Siberian Ginseng

 

Introduction
There are two main types of Ginseng, Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) which is native to the Northern China and South Korea areas, and North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Other types of Ginseng include Korean red Ginseng, and Siberian Ginseng (Eleutheroccocus senticosus) named after its natural habitat in Siberia. It thrives in the cold climate and its general habitat includes coniferous mountain forests and foots of cliffs. The Siberian variety of Ginseng is technically not a kind of Ginseng at all; but it produces similar physiological effects in the body. Thus it is in reality is a ‘pseudo’ Ginseng.

Historical Medicinal Uses of Siberian Ginseng
Siberian Ginseng is considered to be a medicinal treasure trove by the Chinese, coming to the forefront of Traditional Chinese Medicine about 2000 years ago. All varieties of Ginseng nourish and strengthen the body because they are believed to have the ability to nurture ‘Chi’ or the life force flowing within the body. However different kinds of Ginseng produce different effects on the body. In general, the Chinese red Ginseng is considered to be stronger than the white variety, and Panax Ginseng is considered to be better as a general health tonic. Having said that, Siberian Ginseng may have superior effects in other areas of improving health.

Medical uses of Siberian Ginseng

High Blood Pressure

About 28% of Australians suffer hypertension (high blood pressure), which increases the risk for stroke and heart disease. In hypertensive individuals, the arteries fail to relax causing increased pressure inside the arteries. These individuals often lack the chemical (nitric oxide) that causes the arteries to relax. In a recent study, Siberian Ginseng was found to increase nitric oxide in arteries resulting in a relaxation of the arteries.

Low Blood Pressure

Siberian Ginseng root extract (33% alcohol) (2 - 48 ml per day) increases blood pressure in hypotension patients due to its adaptogenic properties.  The underlying mechanism by which Siberian Ginseng increases blood pressure may be due to its effect on the kidneys as it has been demonstrated that acute kidney infection patients experience improved kidney function after Siberian Ginseng treatment.

Opposite effects?
While the above data appears to demonstrate opposite effects, Siberian Ginseng acts like an adaptogen, meaning it will balance the body back to normal, whichever way the body is in imbalance. Thus Siberian Ginseng can be used for either high or low blood pressure.

Infections
Siberian Ginseng can be used on a long-term basis to minimize the incidence of acute bacterial and viral infections.  However, it is best taken as a preventative measure (i.e. it should be taken prior to the occurrence of bacterial or viral infections). For example, it  would be a great herb to take at the beginning of Winter to prevent getting an infection.

Siberian Ginseng for Antiviral conditions
A liquid extract of Siberian Ginseng roots inhibited the productive replication of the viruses commonly associated with the flu or common cold (caused by either the rhinovirus (HRV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or the influenza A virus). Analysis of virus production after the Siberian Ginseng treatment of the infected cells showed that Siberian Ginseng had a strong antiviral activity.

Immune Boosting
Another way Siberian Ginseng kills viruses is by increasing the body’s immune cells (the T cells). A double blind study demonstrated that healthy people who consume 10 ml of Siberian Ginseng tincture three times per day (= 30 ml per day) experience an increase in their (infection fighting) T lymphocytes production.

Anti-fatigue
An earlier study has found that Siberian Ginseng increased the running speed and endurance of athletes running a 3 km race. The mechanism of how Siberian Ginseng improves athletic performance is still under debate; however, one study tested the effect of Siberian Ginseng on Soviet Olympic teams during challenging training and competition.  Athletes using Siberian Ginseng were found to have improved stamina and recovery, increased oxygen uptake, and better athletic performance.

Anti-stress
Siberian Ginseng root extract (33% alcohol) (2 - 48 ml per day) counteracts the toxic effects of stress.  When researchers reviewed the results of clinical trials involving more than 2,100 healthy persons (aged 19 to 72), Siberian Ginseng increased the ability of participants to accomodate adverse physical conditions, improved mental performance, and enhanced the quality of work performed under stressful conditions.

Drug Interactions with Siberian Ginseng
Although Siberian Ginseng, as with any herbal medicine, can conflict with medications, no significant herb/drug interactions with Siberian Ginseng have been reported. As a precaution however, it is advised that before using this herb or any other herbal preparation, you should consult your health care professional. It has been demonstrated that Siberian Ginseng can alter blood pressure, thus it is essential that you inform your doctor when you take Siberian Ginseng if you are on blood pressure medication.

Therapeutic/safe dosages of Siberian Ginseng
The most commonly recommended therapeutic dosage for Siberian Ginseng (20:1 concentration, containing at least 1% Eleutheroside E) is 300 mg - 600 mg per day. The usual therapeutic dosage for unstandardized, crude Siberian Ginseng dried root is 6,000 - 12,000 mg per day (taken as three divided doses of 2,000 - 4,000 mg each) and the usual therapeutic dosage of 1:1 fluid extract of Siberian Ginseng is 6 - 12 ml per day (taken as three divided doses of 2 - 4 ml each).

The Dosage and Duration of Taking Siberian Ginseng
Studies have found that short and long term consumption is beneficial for the treatment of infections (particularly viruses), high or low blood pressure, athletic performance, mental fatigue, depression and concentration problems. Longer intake of Siberian Ginseng has been associated with enhanced sporting and sexual performance. Doses of up to 12 grams have been taken for extended periods of time (years) without adverse effects.

Other herbs that can be used with Siberian Ginseng
As with many herbs, combinations can be used to add to the therapeutic value. The following is a list of herbs that can be prescribed with Siberian Ginseng to boost its therapeutic properties:

  • Echinacea. Probably one of the best known herbs in the world, Echinacea is a fantastic immune stimulant and will combine well with Siberian Ginseng for the treatment of infections.
  • Ginkgo. Ginkgo is best combined with Siberian Ginseng if there is a need to improve memory and concentration. Ginkgo works by improving the function of the brain by increasing blood flow to the brain and improving neurotransmitter function in the brain.
  • Withania. One of the best all round herbal adaptogens, Withania is a brilliant anti-fatigue herb. It will also help to improve sporting performance and reduce cardiovascular disease and help with blood pressure.
  • Panax Ginseng. Another one of the best all round herbal adaptogens, Panax Ginseng is again a brilliant anti-fatigue herb. It will also help to improve sporting performance however; will have a greater effect on the improvement of mental health conditions and sexual functioning. Panax Ginseng is also highly prised for the prevention of cancer.
  • Hypericum (St. John’s Wort). Best known for the treatment of depression, Hypericum and Siberian Ginseng are commonly prescribed for killing viruses. It also combines well with Siberian Ginseng for the treatment of depression.
  • Hawthorn. Hawthorn (the berries and the leaves) are best known by herbalists and one of the great herbs for the treatment of heart disease, including high blood pressure. Siberian Ginseng is a fantastic addition for the treatment of high blood pressure.

Conclusion
Siberian Ginseng is a highly popular herbal medicine for those of us who find ourselves lacking mental or physical power, have a poor immune system, blood pressure problems, or are under a lot of stress. The history of use of Siberian Ginseng gives us clues as to the value of this herb. As we all live in a stressful environment, Siberian Ginseng can be an  important herb to anyone who wants to maintain mental clarity, prevent infections, or to prevent stress and fatigue.

REFERENCES
Briganti EM, Shaw JE, Chadban SJ, Zimmet PZ et al. MJA 2003; 179: 135-139.

Kwan, C. Y., et al.  Vascular effects of Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): endothelium-dependent NO- and EDHF-mediated relaxation depending on vessel size.  Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol.  369(5):473-480, 2004.

Farnsworth, N. R., et al.  Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus):  Current status as an adaptogen.  Econ Med Plant Res.  1:156-215, 1985.

Eleutherococcus - a herbal adaptogen.  Mediherb Professional Newsletter.  36:1-2, 1993.

Glatthaar-Saalmuller, B., et al.  Antiviral activity of an extract derived from roots of Eleutherococcus senticosus.  Antiviral Research.  50:223-228, 2001.

Bohn, B., et al.  Flow-cytometric studies with Eleutherococcus senticosus extract as an immunomodulatory agent.  Arzneim Forsch.  37:1193-1196, 1987.

Dalinger, O. I., et al.  The influence of eleutherococcus on high nervous activity of student-athletes.  Stimulators of the Central Nervous System. 2:162-167, 1968.

Asano, K. T., et al.  The influence of Eleutherococcus on muscle work capacity in humans.  New Data on Eleutherococcus:  Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Eleutherococcus (Moscow 1984).  Far East Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1986:166.

Farnsworth, N. R., et al.  Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus):  Current status as an adaptogen.  Econ Med Plant Res.  1:156-215, 1985.




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