- Russian ginseng
- Devil's shrub
- Wild pepper
- 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.
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
For Healthcare Professionals
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.
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).
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).
- 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.