Siberian ginseng with its name refers to the well-known Panax ginseng, which is considered a panacea for many ailments. It’s a different plant, however, albeit from the same family and with similar medicinal properties of the root, hence the reference to the name. It’s an incredible plant that can be a life-changer thanks to all the benefits that I’ll explain in this article. So, let’s see what eleuthero is all about.
What is eleuthero
As you now know, Eleuthero (Latin Eleutherococcus senticosus), is often called Siberian ginseng. Although it belongs to the same aralia family as Panax ginseng or ginseng, is a completely different plant.
Eleuthero is a plant species belonging to the Araliaceae family and is a herb known for over 4,000 years. The area of its occurrence covers the north-eastern part of Asia: Siberia, Manchuria, China, Japan, and Korea. It’s a highly branched shrub, growing up to 4 m, although its typical height is 2.5 m. Its shoots are covered with numerous thin spines, positioned obliquely downwards.
Chinese folk medicine has used (and still uses) eleuthero for thousands of years to increase vitality. Interestingly, the Western world learned about its properties only in the second half of the 20th century, when, due to the low availability and high price of ginseng (Panax ginseng), a raw material with similar properties was sought. Research by Russian scientists in the 1950s showed Eleuthero’s multidirectional biological activity. In 1962, it was included in the Soviet pharmacopoeia as a medicinal herb. Less than 10 years later, its ethanolic extract was exported to the United States as a tonic.
Currently, this plant is cultivated on an industrial scale in China and Russia and is available worldwide in the form of dried rhizomes, extracts, or tablets. Research is also being conducted on biotechnological methods of in vitro breeding aimed at obtaining the highest possible concentrations of the main active substances called eleutherosides. Eleuthero’s transgenic cell cultures can also produce human lactoferrin, a protein with potent antimicrobial properties.
Today we have Siberian ginseng in the form of a dried cut root, extracts, or capsules with powdered root. You can also eat it in the form of tinctures, drink it as tea or chew the root itself.
Properties of eleuthero
Siberian ginseng and its properties were discovered by chance. Scientists compared it with Asian ginseng, the cultivation and purchase of which reach horrendous amounts in Asia. It turned out that Siberian ginseng has a similar pro-health effect and is abundant in vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and F.
The most common practice in traditional medicine is the use of the root due to its therapeutic, energizing, and healing properties.
The range of therapeutic uses for this plant is really wide. That’s because it affects many systems in our body and supports a multitude of processes. They also positively influence our mood. It can significantly improve our ability to remember and learn. With regular use, we can also notice its beneficial effect on concentration.
Eleuthero has adaptogenic properties, i.e. acting on the body as a whole, as it restores balance at all its levels. They play a very important role because they provide the necessary ingredients that mobilize the natural forces and defense mechanisms of the body.
As a result, ginseng, like other adaptogens, can lower too high blood pressure or raise too low blood pressure to an optimal level, it can calm down in a state of over-excitation or stimulate states of discouragement or apathy.
Eleuterosides are responsible for most of the medicinal properties of Siberian ginseng. And there are plenty of them.
Here are the main health benefits of eleuthero:
1. Supports the immune system
Siberian ginseng root is a powerful immune system booster. This is because it leads to an increase in phagocytosis and stimulation of immunocompetent cells (T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes). It also activates the production and release of cytokines. Consequently – our body can immediately react to any disturbances in homeostasis caused, for example, by increased physical activity or potential infections.
2. Heals insomnia
Chinese healers believe that Siberian ginseng is one of the best herbal calming and anxiolytic agents. Its regular use helps us calm down, reduces anxiety, and thus – makes it easier to fall asleep in the evening. There’s arguably nothing more important for our well-being than a good night’s sleep, so eleuthero can easily be a life-changer.
3. It positively influences the mood
Siberian Ginseng provides us with an extra dose of energy and mental strength that helps us maintain a good mood. It is extremely useful, especially in situations that require a lot of mental effort or are simply highly stressful. It also contains active chemical ingredients, eleutherosides, which inhibit the stress response by reducing the activity of the adrenal cortex.
Eleuthero also balances serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and epinephrine levels. The influence on neurotransmitters makes Siberian Ginseng a natural means of stabilizing the mood in a non-invasive way.
4. Effective in the fight against chronic fatigue syndrome
Scientific research shows that the Eleuthero root improves the body’s ability to deal with stress. For this reason, it’s widely used to increase the ability to work (both physically and mentally) during periods of overwork, stress, fatigue, and exhaustion. This can be especially helpful in the fast-paced times we live in where being stressed has become a new norm.
5. It enables better concentration
Siberian ginseng has a positive effect on the blood supply to the brain. By improving blood circulation, it leads to better nourishment of our neurons, and thus – increases their efficiency. Thanks to this effect, people who regularly use supplements of this plant feel a significant improvement in concentration.
6. It has antivirus properties
Scientists have found that Siberian Ginseng increases the synthesis of the interferon drug which affects the activity of the immune system, interfering with every stage of viral infection. (Interferon is used in viral infections of hepatitis and the hepatitis C virus). It does so by stimulating the activation of components of the immune system (B and T lymphocytes) which makes it a useful antiviral drug in the treatment of many types of infections.
Athletes and Chernobyl
Soviet scientists reached for the roots of this plant when looking for an alternative to the expensive “ordinary” ginseng. It turned out that the Siberian plant also has a lot to offer. Russian athletes already used it in the 1950s, and research confirmed that it gave them the edge in form of more energy. The Siberian root also ensured faster regeneration after intense training or exhausting competitions. After the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, eleuthero was used to reduce the effects of radiation. It seems that administration of the plant extract reduces mortality from radiation sickness, reduces leukopenia, and increases the platelet count.
Cosmetic properties of Siberian ginseng
Siberian ginseng (eleuthero) extracts are also a valuable ingredient in cosmetics, especially anti-wrinkle creams, and face serums. It has an excellent effect on the elasticity of the skin, increases its tension, reduces laxity, and has a strong lifting effect. In addition, as with the effect on the entire body, it increases the skin’s resistance to external stress factors. This is thanks to its antioxidant effect, which reduces free radicals damage and rejuvenates the skin, and in turn, leads to a strong anti-aging effect. It is also perfect for the care of acne-prone skin. Siberian ginseng extracts perfectly strengthen the hair bulbs, preventing them from falling out. It’s worth looking for cosmetics with this particular ingredient.
How much Eleuthero to reap its benefits?
First of all, you have to keep in mind that the concentration of Siberian Ginseng in products can vary significantly. Therefore, you should first read the leaflet of the purchased supplement and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. The maximum dose is thought to be 1.5 g per day, although you don’t really need this much to reap all the benefits.
Ginseng as a dietary supplement is most often in the form of tablets or capsules. Its recommended dose is usually 1 tablet/capsule a day, but remember that after three months of daily use of eleuthero, you should consider taking a break of about 4 weeks. Otherwise, functional disorders of many organs may occur.
Who should avoid Siberian ginseng
Siberian ginseng, like most medicines of natural origin, has properties that in some cases may end up being not only undesirable but even harmful. It’s a plant that raises blood pressure, so people with hypertension might want to avoid it. You should also not take preparations with Siberian ginseng during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Contraindication to the use of this natural medicine is also atherosclerosis and some heart diseases. The root of Siberian ginseng stimulates the work of the brain, so keep that in mind if you suffer from nervous hyperactivity or insomnia. Below I will list a few important bullet points.
Eleuthero should be avoided by:
- pregnant and breastfeeding women – insufficient data on safety
- people with blood coagulation disorders
- those with severely high blood pressure
- people suffering from mental disorders such as mania or schizophrenia
- as well as people suffering from tumors that are sensitive to hormones (breast, ovarian, uterine cancer)
It’s also important not to combine eleuthero supplements with:
In what form can we buy Siberian ginseng?
Currently, Siberian ginseng is available on the market in several forms. We can buy it in the form of a dried root, whole (they are small – up to 4 cm in diameter), or shredded. You can brew the root, add it to tea or even pour vodka or dry wine over it. After two weeks you will be able to enjoy a home-made medicinal tincture thanks to this process. There are also preparations with powdered roots in capsules or tablets, as well as the root liquid extracts. When reaching for this type of supplement, it’s worth choosing those with standardized content of eleuterosides. Regardless of the form, due to the stimulating effect of eleuthero (increases blood pressure, stimulates the brain), it should be taken in the morning or the afternoon and it is not recommended to take its preparations at night.