Siberian Ginseng

Siberian Ginseng

Common Names

  • Eleuthero
  • Russian ginseng
  • Devil's shrub
  • Touch-me-not
  • Wild pepper
  • Shigoka
  • Ci wu ja

For Patients & Caregivers

How It Works

Siberian ginseng does not enhance athletic performance nor treat or prevent cancer.

Scientists are unsure how Siberian ginseng works. Compounds from the plant have been shown to stimulate immune cells and protect the nervous system but no large-scale clinical trials have been conducted. In studies of postmenopausal women, Siberian ginseng supplements lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and improved HDL (good) cholesterol levels, reduced knee osteoarthritis pain and symptoms, and improved bone metabolism. More research is needed.

Purported Uses
  • To reduce the side effects from chemotherapy
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To stimulate the immune system
    Laboratory studies show that Siberian ginseng can stimulate certain aspects of the immune system, but clinical trials have not been conducted.
  • To increase strength and stamina
    Clinical trials do not support this use.
  • To reduce the pain and symptoms of knee osteoarthritis
    One small study showed that Siberian ginseng may reduce the pain and symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. More research is needed.
  • To improve bone metabolism in post-menopausal women
    One small study showed that Siberian ginseng had a beneficial effect on bone metabolism in postmenopausal women. However, further study is needed to confirm this effect.
Do Not Take If
  • You are taking digoxin: Eleuthero can elevate the levels of this medication in the blood, which may increase its side effects.
Side Effects

Case report
Intracranial hemorrhage:
In a 53-year-old woman following use of an herbal supplement containing red clover, dong quai, and Siberian ginseng for hot flashes associated with perimenopause. Symptoms resolved after supplement discontinuation.

Special Point
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For Healthcare Professionals

Brand Name
Scientific Name
Eleutherococcus senticosus, Acanthopanax senticosus
Clinical Summary

Siberian ginseng is derived from a perennial plant primarily found in Northern Asia. Although it is not a species of ginseng, it is thought to have comparable activities. Siberian ginseng, or eleuthero, has been used traditionally as an adaptogen, performance enhancer, and immunostimulant (2). Active components include eleutherosides and polysaccharides (28).

In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that Siberian ginseng extracts have neuroprotective effects (8); reduce glucose levels in insulin-deficient animals (9); bind to estrogen, progestin, and mineralocorticoid receptors (10); and stimulate T-lymphocyte and natural killer cell production (11).

A small study of patients with knee osteoarthritis found that an herbal mixture containing Siberian ginseng relieved pain and improved physical function (5). Siberian ginseng may also improve endurance (27), have beneficial effects on bone remodeling (6), and help in managing cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women (7).

Purported Uses
  • Chemotherapy side effects
  • Health maintenance
  • Immunostimulation
  • Strength and stamina
Mechanism of Action

In vitro studies indicate that eleuthero contains chemicals that bind to estrogen, progestin, mineralocorticoid, and glucocorticoid receptors (10). In macrophages, a Siberian ginseng extract suppressed LPS-induced iNOS expression and thus nitric oxide production by possibly inhibiting nuclear factor-kappa B activity (15) (16) or Akt and JNK signaling (16), and inhibited reactive oxygen species production (17).

Eleutheroside B, eleutheroside E, and isofraxidin — active constituents of Siberian ginseng — showed protective effects against Aβ(25-35)-induced atrophies of axons and dendrites in rat cultured cortical neurons (22). Isofraxidin also inhibited cell invasion and the expression of matrix metalloproteinase-7 by human hepatoma cell lines HuH-7 and Hep G-2, possibly through the inhibition of ERK1/2 phosphorylation (18).

In animal studies, eleuthero root bark was shown to exhibit neuroprotective effects against global cerebral ischemia with recovery of spatial memory in rats, possibly through anti-inflammatory mechanisms of inhibition of COX-2 expression, microglia and astrocyte expression (23). Eleutherosides restored behavioral and biochemical alterations in mice with sleep deprivation (24), and alleviated both physical and mental fatigue in mice possibly due to increased fat utilization, delayed accumulation of blood urea nitrogen, and increased lactate dehydrogenase (25). Eleutherosides also mediate hyperglycemic effects of Siberian ginseng by regulating insulin signaling and glucose utilization (29).

In other studies, a Siberian ginseng extract decreased cadmium concentration in the blood and liver of mice as well as cadmium-induced mitotic and apoptotic activity of liver cells (26). Supplementation with Siberian ginseng reduced LDL cholesterol levels and improved LDL/HDL ratios in postmenopausal women (7).

Siberian ginseng extract was shown to moderately inhibit breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP)-mediated methotrexate transport in BCRP-expressing membrane vesicles (21).

Adverse Reactions

Case report

Subarachnoid hemorrhage: In a 53-year-old woman following use of an herbal supplement containing red clover, dong quai, and Siberian ginseng for hot flashes associated with perimenopause. Symptoms resolved after supplement discontinuation (19).

Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Digoxin: Elevates serum digoxin levels (12).
  • Cytochrome P450 substrates: Eleutherosides B and E may inhibit CYP2C9 and CYP2E1, and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (30).
Herb Lab Interactions

Siberian ginseng may cause falsely elevated digoxin serum assays (12).

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. Schulz V, et al. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine, 4th ed. New York: Springer; 2001.

  2. Harkey MR, Henderson GL, Gershwin ME, et al. Variability in commercial ginseng products: an analysis of 25 preparations. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:1101-6.

  3. Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press; 1999.

  4. Newall C, et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals, 1st ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.

  5. Park SH, Kim SK, Shin IH. Effects of AIF on Knee Osteoarthritis Patients: Double-blind, Randomized Placebo-controlled Study. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Feb;13(1):33-7.

  6. Niu HS, Liu IM, Cheng JT, et al. Hypoglycemic effect of syringin from Eleutherococcus senticosus in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Planta Med. Feb 2008;74(2):109-113.

  7. Pearce PT, Zois I, Wynne KN, et al. Panax ginseng and Eleuthrococcus senticosus extracts—in vitro studies on binding to steroid receptors. Endocrinol Jpn. 1982 Oct;29(5):567-73.

  8. Szolomicki J, Samochowiec L, Wojcicki J, et al. The influence of active components of Eleutherococcus senticosus on cellular defence and physical fitness in man. Phytother Res. 2000 Feb;14(1):30-5. Erratum in: Phytother Res 2000 May;14(3):225.

  9. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.

  10. Lin QY, Jin LJ, Cao ZH, et al. Inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase by Acanthopanax senticosus extract in RAW264.7 macrophages. J Ethnopharmacol. Jul 23 2008;118(2):231-236.

  11. Friedman JA, Taylor SA, McDermott W, et al. Multifocal and recurrent subarachnoid hemorrhage due to an herbal supplement containing natural coumarins. Neurocrit Care. 2007;7(1):76-80.

  12. Dowling EA, Redondo DR, Branch JD, et al. Effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus on submaximal and maximal exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996;28:482-9.

  13. Lee D, Park J, Yoon J, et al. Neuroprotective effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus bark on transient global cerebral ischemia in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 May 27. [Epub ahead of print]

  14. Huang LZ, Wei L, Zhao HF, et al. The effect of Eleutheroside E on behavioral alterations in murine sleep deprivation stress model. Eur J Pharmacol. 2011;658(2-3):150-5.

  15. Huang LZ, Huang BK, Ye Q, et al. Bioactivity-guided fractionation for anti-fatigue property of Acanthopanax senticosus. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;133(1):213-9.

  16. Smalinskiene A, Lesauskaite V, Zitkevicius V, et al. Estimation of the combined effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus extract and cadmium on liver cells. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009;1171:314-20.

  17. Huang L, Zhao H, Huang B, et al. Acanthopanax senticosus: review of botany, chemistry and pharmacology. Pharmazie. 2011 Feb;66(2):83-97.

  18. Guo S, Liu Y, Lin Z, Tai S, Yin S, Liu G. Effects of eleutheroside B and eleutheroside E on activity of cytochrome P450 in rat liver microsomes. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jan 2;14:1.

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