Siberian ginseng

Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), also known as eleuthero, has been used for centuries in Eastern countries, including China and Russia. Despite its name, it is completely different from American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), and has different active chemical components. The active ingredients in Siberian ginseng, called eleutherosides, may stimulate the immune system.

Siberian ginseng was traditionally used to prevent colds and flu and to increase energy, longevity, and vitality. It is widely used in Russia as an "adaptogen." An adaptogen is a substance that is supposed to help the body better cope with either mental or physical stress.

Until recently, most scientific research on Siberian ginseng was done in Russia. Research on Siberian ginseng has included studies on the following:

COLDS AND FLU

Some double-blind studies have found that a specific product containing Siberian ginseng and andrographis reduced the severity and length of colds when taken with 72 hours of symptoms starting. Researchers do not know whether Siberian ginseng was responsible or whether it was andrographis, or the combination of the two herbs.

One study compared the same product with amantadine, a drug used to treat some kinds of flu. People with flu who took the same product saw their symptoms go away faster than those who took amantadine.

Another study found that healthy people who took Siberian ginseng for 4 weeks had more T-cells, which may indicate their immune systems were stronger.

HERPES VIRAL INFECTION

One double-blind study of 93 people with herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2, which can cause genital herpes, found that taking Siberian ginseng reduced the number of outbreaks. Outbreaks that did happen were less severe and did not last as long. Talk to your doctor about whether using Siberian ginseng to help prevent herpes outbreaks would help.

MENTAL PERFORMANCE

Siberian ginseng is often used to increase mental alertness. But there have not been enough scientific studies to show that it really works. One preliminary study found that middle-aged volunteers who took Siberian ginseng improved their memory compared to those who took placebo.

PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE

Siberian ginseng is often said to improve athletic performance and increase muscle strength. While some studies have found positive results, others have found that Siberian ginseng had no effect.

QUALITY OF LIFE

One study found that elderly people who took Siberian ginseng had better mental health and social functioning after 4 weeks of therapy, compared to those who took placebo. But after 8 weeks, the benefits started to dissipate.

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Chronic fatigue syndrome Common cold Herpes simplex virus Influenza Stress

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Herbal medicine

Review Date: 3/25/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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