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Siberian ginseng, ci wu ju

Parts used and where grown:   Eleuthero belongs to the Araliaceae family and is a distant relative of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). Also known commonly as touch-me-not and devilÕs shrub, eleuthero has been most frequently nicknamed Siberian ginseng in this country. Eleuthero is native to the Taiga region of the Far East (southeastern part of Russia, northern China, Korea, and Japan). The root and the rhizomes (underground stem) are used.

In what conditions might Siberian ginseng be supportive?

AlzheimerÕs disease athletic support chemotherapy support chronic fatigue syndrome common cold/sore throat diabetes fibromyalgia HIV support infection influenza stress fatigue

Historical or traditional use: Although not as popular as Asian ginseng, eleuthero use dates back 2,000 years, according to Chinese medicine records. Referred to as ci wu ju in Chinese medicine, it was used to prevent respiratory tract infections as well as colds and flu. It was also believed to provide energy and vitality. In Russia, eleuthero was originally used by people in the Siberian Taiga region to increase performance and quality of life and to decrease infections.

In more modern times, eleutheroÕs ability to increase stamina and endurance led Soviet Olympic athletes to use it to enhance their training. Explorers, divers, sailors, and miners used eleuthero to prevent stress-related illness. After the Chernobyl accident, many Russian citizens were given eleuthero to counteract the effects of radiation.

Active constituents: The constituents in eleuthero that have received the most attention are the eleutherosides.1 Seven primary eleutherosides have been identified, with most of the research attention focusing on eleutherosides B and E.2 Eleuthero also contains complex polysaccharides (a kind of sugar molecule).3 These constituents play a critical role in eleutheroÕs ability to support immune function.

As an adaptogen, eleuthero helps the body adapt to stress. It does this by encouraging normal adrenal glands function, allowing them to function optimally when challenged by stress.4

Eleuthero has been shown to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance without the letdown that comes with caffeinated products.5 Research has shown that eleuthero improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle. This means that a person is able to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recovery from workouts is much quicker.6

Another way that eleuthero reduces stress on the body is to combat harmful toxins. Eleuthero has shown a protective effect in animal studies, against chemicals such as ethanol, sodium barbital, tetanus toxoid, and chemotherapeutic agents.7 Eleuthero also reduces the side effects of radiation exposure.8

Evidence is also mounting that eleuthero enhances and supports the immune response. Eleuthero may be useful as a preventive measure during cold and flu season. Recent evidence also suggests that eleuthero may prove valuable in the long-term management of various diseases of the immune system, including HIV infection, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune illnesses such as lupus.9

How much should I use? Dried, powdered root and rhizomes of 2-3 grams per day can be used. Concentrated solid extract standardized on eleutherosides B and E, 300-400 mg per day, can also be used, as can alcohol-based extracts, 8-10 ml in two to three divided dosages. Historically, eleuthero is taken continuously for six to eight weeks, followed by a one- to two-week break before resuming.

Are there any side effects or interactions? Reported side effects have been minimal with use of eleuthero. Mild, transient diarrhea has been reported in a very small number of users. Eleuthero may cause insomnia in some people if taken too close to bedtime. Eleuthero is not recommended for individuals with uncontrolled high blood pressure. It can be used during pregnancy or lactation. However, pregnant or lactating women using eleuthero should avoid products that have been adulterated with Panax ginseng or other related species that are contraindicated.


1.Collisson RJ. Siberian ginseng (Eleutheroecoccus senticosus). Brit J Phytother 1991; 2:61-71. 2.Farnsworth NR, Kinghorn AD, Soejarto DD, Waller DP. Siberian ginseng (Eleutheroecoccus senticosus): Current status as an adaptogen. In Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, vol 1, ed. H Wagner, HZ Hikino, NR Farnsworth.  London: Academic Press, 1985, 155-215. 3.Hikino H, Takahashi M, et al. Isolation and hypoglycemic activity of eleutherans A, B, C, D, E, F and G: glycans of Eleutheroecoccus senticosus roots. J Natural Prod 1986; 49:293-7. 4.Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomed 1994; 1:63-76. 5.Farnsworth NR, Kinghorn AD, Soejarto DD, Waller DP. Siberian ginseng (Eleutheroecoccus senticosus): Current status as an adaptogen. In Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, vol 1, ed. H Wagner, HZ Hikino, NR Farnsworth.  London: Academic Press, 1985, 155-215. 6.Asano K, Takahashi T, et al. Effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus extract on human working capacity. Planta Medica 1986; 37:175-7. 7.McNaughton L. A comparison of Chinese and Russian ginseng as ergogenic aids to improve various facets of physical fitness. Inter Clin Nutr Rev 1989; 9:32-5. 8.Collisson RJ. Siberian ginseng (Eleutheroecoccus senticosus). Brit J Phytother 1991; 2:61-71. 9.Ben-Hur E, Fulder S. Effect of P. ginseng saponins and Eleutherococcus S. on survival of cultured mammalian cells after ionizing radiation. Am J Chin Med 1981; 9:48-56.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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