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 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.
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.
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).
Chemotherapy side effects
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).
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).