Siberian Ginseng

Siberian ginseng

Eleutherococcus senticosus Araliaceae

As its name suggests, this thorny shrub comes from Siberia. It forms a bush, 2-3m in height, its grey stems and branches bearing palmate leaves. The small, globular flowers are held singly or in groups if two or three on smooth lecifstalks. The female flowers are yellow, while the males are purple.

Parts used

  • Roots
  • The roots are collected when they are rich in active constituents either in autumn just before the leaves fall or in spring as new growth begins.
  • Certain Russian researchers advocate the use of the leaves as well but this is currently under debate.
  • The root is used as a dry extract, a powder or a tincture. It can also be prescribed as an infusion.


The constituents in the root of Siberian ginseng include polysaccharides and eleutherosides A to G and I to M, which are thought to stimulate the immune system.


  • Before using the plant, it is best (though not essential) to consult a doctor or medical herbalist.
  • It should not be given to children before they reach puberty, or to pregnant and breastfeeding women, or those taking oral contraceptives.
  • It is not suitable for people who are suffering from insomnia, high blood pressure, nervous tension, obesity, heart palpitations and benign breast disease.
  • Hyperactive, schizophrenic or manic individuals should avoid it.
  • Stimulants, alcohol and spicy foods should be avoided while using ginseng.

Medicinal uses

Siberian ginseng is described as being an adaptogen because it helps the body to adapt to physical and psychological stress. Russian doctors, who were the first to draw attention to its therapeutic value, have used it to ameliorate the effects of stress.

The herb has been similarly prescribed in Western Europe and also as a treatment for fatigue and high blood pressure. An American paper published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2000 reviews the research on the adaptogenic nature of Siberian ginseng, including its cancer-fighting properties and the plant's ability to stimulate the immune system.

Its positive effect on the immune system means that the plant can help to protect against viral infections. Its potential as an immune stimulant was supported by a study performed in Germany in 1987 which showed that Siberian ginseng increased the total number of lymphocytes. It is described as being beneficial for maintaining good health rather than treating illnesses per se, and is reputed to be a tonic for all organs of the body. The root has been shown to stimulate the central nervous system and the adrenal gland, as well as being beneficial in the treatment of impotence. It is also reputed to lower blood sugar levels and treat inflammation.


Plant in well-drained, rich soil in a sunny or slightly shady location.


For internal use:

TO TREAT stress, fatigue, viral infections
CAPSULES (150mg powder) Take 1 capsule, three times a day with a large glass of water. CAPSULES (50mg dry extract) Take 4-6 capsules a day with a large glass of water. TINCTURE (1:3 in 25% alcohol) Take 10-20 drops with water after meals three times a day.
Do not use Siberian ginseng for more than a month, followed by a break of at least two months before restarting.



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