What is Siberian Ginseng?
The root of the Eleutheroccocus centicocus plant, also called Siberian ginseng or Eleuthero, has been used in China and Russia for centuries with a variety of uses and benefits which it provides to our bodies. The plant belongs to the ginseng family and is perennial growing between 25 cm and 50 cm in height in the wild. Siberian ginseng is botanically different from true ginseng species, namely Korean and American ginseng.
Each Siberian ginseng plant can take several years to grow but the roots can live for over a hundred years. The roots are creamy yellow or white resembling a parsnip with rootlets that often resemble a man.
The Chinese have used Siberian ginseng for over 4000 years for its multiple benefits, whilst Russians discovered that this herb has similar properties to ginseng even if it does not belong to the ginseng family.
The benefits of Siberian ginseng
Siberian ginseng’s multiple benefits have been known for centuries with the Chinese using it is for its tonic properties. The Russians studied it in the late 1950’s as an alternative to ginseng, which is where the word “adaptogen” was coined from. An adaptogen refers to a substance which promotes adaptation by the body to all kinds of stressors whether physical, emotive or environmental. Siberian ginseng contains ginsenosides, referred to as eleutherosides, which enable ginseng to balance and counterbalance the effects of stress.
Siberian ginseng helps to normalise the way in which the body responds to stress and acts to regulate the manufacture and secretions of the adrenal hormones. It strengthens the adrenal glands themselves which is especially important to those suffering from chronic stress. Siberian ginseng also supports the whole of the central nervous system, which may help restore proper neurological function after long term stress.
By far the biggest single use of Siberian ginseng is its ability to increase energy. Although cellular energy requires the production of the ATP molecule manufactured within every cell of the body, the primary glands for secreting energising hormones and enzymes are the adrenals. Siberian ginseng works to stimulate these enzymes so that symptoms of low energy and fatigue are addressed.
Siberian ginseng has also been found to increase white blood cell counts particularly T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. These cells work to engulf bacteria and viruses and are therefore important to protect the body against infection. Siberian ginseng is therefore frequently used as an immune booster.
Siberian ginseng also helps to enhance mental performance. In tests conducted in the 1960’s, people who took Siberian ginseng were quicker and more accurate in the work they performed. Additionally, their work accuracy and quality did not change even under severe stress or under extreme pressure. Stress hinders your mental performance. The nerve cells in the brain of a stressed person are usually shrivelled and have hardly any branches to facilitate communication. Conversely, the nerve cells in a healthy brain are thickly branched and sturdy. Research indicates that Siberian ginseng stimulates the production of two special proteins which appear to protect the brain cells when under stress.
Siberian ginseng seems to speed up your reaction time, improve learning and memory, and sharpen vision as well as strengthening hearing.
Siberian ginseng has been shown to lower blood sugar levels which makes it a useful herb for those with Type II diabetes and this herb can also be used alongside most medications for sugar control however you should always monitor your blood sugar levels using testing strips.
Traditionally used to increase sexual desire, research seems to indicate that Siberian ginseng does have an influence on the female sex hormones.
Arthritis is a debilitating and painful disease where anti-inflammatory drugs seem to be frequently prescribed. Siberian ginseng has been shown to alleviate painful joints and muscles. A word of caution: Siberian ginseng should not be taken by people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis due to its immune enhancing properties.
These are just some of the uses of Siberian ginseng and there are many other reported benefits of Siberian ginseng where it has been used to treat headaches, backache, normalising menstruation, easing childbirth, countering hot flushes during menopause, helping weight loss and improving skin health.
What are the side effects associated with Siberian ginseng side effects?
Siberian ginseng, or Eleuthero, is contraindicated in children under 12, pregnant and breastfeeding women and for anyone who has uncontrollable high blood pressure. Unlike Korean ginseng, Siberian ginseng appears to increase blood pressure for those with low blood pressure and decrease blood pressure for those with high blood pressure however I tend to be cautious and never recommend it for those who are struggling to keep their blood pressure within normal limits.
Since Siberian ginseng has an impact on the immune system, it should not be used by anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis.
What are the best Siberian ginseng supplements?
Siberian ginseng is widely available in tablet, capsule, tincture, pure root and in tea bags. Because the therapeutic effect is between two and three grams per day, I tend to favour tablets and capsules as opposed to tea or tinctures because one would have to use these multiple times during the day.
Sibergin by Healthaid offers 500mg of Siberian ginseng extract derived from 2500mg of standardised Siberian ginseng herb and contains the full spectrum of ginsenosides found in the herb. This extract tends to work within a few days especially where fatigue is a concern with best effects experienced within a month. I also tend to recommend the use of Sibergin for a maximum period of three months with a break of a couple of weeks before restarting if required. This is to ensure that the adrenals are not over-stimulated.