Siberian Ginseng

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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 chemotherapy side effects No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To stimulate the immune system Lab studies suggest that Siberian ginseng may stimulate the immune system, but clinical trials have not been conducted.
  • To increase strength and stamina Clinical trials do not support this use.
  • To reduce osteoarthritis symptoms One small study suggests that Siberian ginseng may reduce 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 positive effects on bone metabolism in postmenopausal women. However, further study is needed to confirm this effect.
Do Not Take If
  • You are taking digoxin: In a case report, Siberian ginseng elevated blood levels of this medication, which may also increase its side effects.
Side Effects

Case report
Bleeding in the skull:
In a 53-year-old woman following use of an herbal supplement containing red clover, dong quai, and Siberian ginseng for hot flashes. Symptoms resolved after supplement discontinuation.

Special Point
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For Healthcare Professionals

Brand Name
Eleu-Kokk®
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 neuroprotective (8), hypoglycemic (9), steroid receptor binding (10), and cell protective (11) effects. Studies in humans are quite limited, however. 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), benefit bone remodeling (6), and help manage cholesterol levels (7). Additional studies are needed to assess the utility and safety of this botanical.

Purported Uses
  • Chemotherapy side effects
  • Health maintenance
  • Immunostimulation
  • Strength, 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 matrix metalloproteinase-7 expression by human hepatoma cell lines, possibly through inhibition of ERK1/2 phosphorylation (18).

In animal studies, eleuthero root bark exhibited neuroprotective effects against cerebral ischemia, possibly via inhibition of COX-2, 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 via increased fat utilization, delayed accumulation of blood urea nitrogen, and increased lactate dehydrogenase (25). Eleutherosides also mediated hyperglycemic effects by regulating insulin signaling and glucose utilization (29). In other studies, a Siberian ginseng extract decreased cadmium concentrations and cadmium-induced mitotic and apoptotic activity (26)

Siberian ginseng extract moderately inhibited 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: In a case report, Siberian ginseng elevated serum digoxin levels (12).
  • Cytochrome P450 substrates: In vitro, eleutherosides B and E may inhibit CYP2C9 and CYP2E1, and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (30). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.
Herb Lab Interactions

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

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
References
  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. Hwang YC, Jeong IK, Ahn KJ, et al. The effects of Acanthopanax senticosus extract on bone turnover and bone mineral density in Korean postmenopausal women. J Bone Miner Metab. 2009;27(5):584-90.
  7. Lee YJ, Chung HY, Kwak HK, et al. The effects of A. senticosus supplementation on serum lipid profiles, biomarkers of oxidative stress, and lymphocyte DNA damage in postmenopausal women. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. Oct 10 2008;375(1):44-48.
  8. Tohda C, Ichimura M, Bai Y, et al. Inhibitory effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus extracts on amyloid beta(25-35)-induced neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss. J Pharmacol Sci. Jul 2008;107(3):329-339.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. McRae S. Elevated serum digoxin levels in a patient taking digoxin and Siberian ginseng. CMAJ 1996;155:293-5.
  13. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.
  14. Baranov AI. Medicinal uses of ginseng and related plants in the Soviet Union: recent trends in the Soviet literature. J Ethnopharmacol 1982;6:339-53.
  15. 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.
  16. Jung CH, Jung H, Shin YC, et al. Eleutherococcus senticosus extract attenuates LPS-induced iNOS expression through the inhibition of Akt and JNK pathways in murine macrophage. J Ethnopharmacol. Aug 15 2007;113(1):183-187.
  17. Lin QY, Jin LJ, Cao ZH, et al. Acanthopanax senticosus suppresses reactive oxygen species production by mouse peritoneal macrophages in vitro and in vivo. Phytother Res. Jun 2008;22(6):740-745.
  18. Yamazaki T, Tokiwa T. Isofraxidin, a coumarin component from Acanthopanax senticosus, inhibits matrix metalloproteinase-7 expression and cell invasion of human hepatoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull 2010;33(10) 1716-1722.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Tamaki H, Satoh H, Hori S, et al. Inhibitory effects of herbal extracts on breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) and structure-inhibitory potency relationship of isoflavonoids. Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2010;25(2):170-9.
  22. Bai Y, Tohda C, Zhu S, et al. Active components from Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) for protection of amyloid β(25-35)-induced neuritic atrophy in cultured rat cortical neurons. J Nat Med. 2011;65(3-4):417-23.
  23. Lee D, Park J, Yoon J, et al. Neuroprotective effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus bark on transient global cerebral ischemia in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jan 6;139(1):6-11.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. Kuo J, Chen KW, Cheng IS, et al. The effect of eight weeks of supplementation with Eleutherococcus senticosus on endurance capacity and metabolism in human. Chin J Physiol.2010 Apr 30;53(2):105-11.
  28. Huang L, Zhao H, Huang B, et al. Acanthopanax senticosus: review of botany, chemistry and pharmacology. Pharmazie. 2011 Feb;66(2):83-97.
  29. Ahn J, Um MY, Lee H, et al. Eleutheroside E, An Active Component of Eleutherococcus senticosus, Ameliorates Insulin Resistance in Type 2 Diabetic db/db Mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:934183.
  30. 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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