Botanical name: Eleutherococcus senticosus or Acanthopanax senticosus
I was going to write an article introducing the three main types of Ginseng, highlighting their differences and commonalities and explaining their therapeutic benefits. But there’s so much information, nuances between them and experiments conducted that they warrant a post all of their own. So here we have a quick introduction to Ginseng and then a focus on Siberian Ginseng, the only variety we currently offer as a herbal product.
Introduction To Ginseng
Ginseng is a perennial herb of the Araliaceae family and a highly valued medicinal plant in the Far East that has gained popularity in the West. The name ginseng comes from the Chinese words “Jen Sheng”, literally meaning “man-root”, due to the shape of its root looking like a man with two legs. The root is the part of the plant commonly consumed.
Ginseng is sometimes described as the “Grandfather of Medicinal Plants” or the “King of Herbs”.
All Ginseng varieties are found to be a promising agent to improve general well-being, help fight against disease, improve energy and enhance sexual function. All types of Ginseng are classified as adaptogens, a substance that helps the body adapt and cope to mental, biological and physical stress.
The main varieties of ginseng to consume as a beneficial herb are..
- Siberian Ginseng - Eleutherococcus senticosus
- Asian Ginseng - Panax Ginseng
- American Ginseng - Panax quinquefolius
Differences Between The Ginsengs
Both Siberian and Asian Ginseng have been used in traditional chinese medicine for centuries but there is a distinct difference between Siberian Ginseng and the other two. They all belong to the Araliaceae family but Siberian Ginseng is of a different genus to the Panax Ginseng and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Therefore Siberian Ginseng is not a true ginseng and some people refer to it as Eleuthero.
The active components in the Panax varieties are ginsenosides while the Eleutherococcus senticosus plant (Siberian Ginseng) active components are eleutherosides and certain polysaccharides. Although these compounds exhibit different physiological effects in humans, they share some similarities as an adaptogen and immune tonic.
In Thomas Bartram’s infamous book, Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, he states that “Siberian Ginseng is believed to be stronger and more stimulating than Panax Ginseng”
Siberian Ginseng - Eleutherococcus senticosus
Siberian ginseng is indigenous to southeastern Russia, and northern parts of China, Japan, and Korea. In traditional Chinese medicine the herb is used to invigorate Qi, strengthen the spleen, tonify the kidneys, provide energy and vitality and to calm the spirit. It is used for treating; high blood pressure, inflammation, respiratory tract infections, ischemic heart disease, spasms, hepatitis, weak body and poor energy, poor appetite, low back and knee pain, insomnia, and excess dreams.
Properties: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress, anti-ulcer, anti-radiation, anti-cancer, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective (prevents damage to the liver) and cardioprotective.
Siberian Ginseng Benefits
While the Chinese have been using Siberian Ginseng for a reported 2000 years, the Russians started their studies on this plant in the late 1950’s, trials were conducted to assess its value in combating stress, exhaustion, infections, colds and other illnesses in military personnel. The word “adaptogen” was actually coined by the russian scientist Israel I. Brekhman during the Soviet experiments in the 1950’s.
Due to its multitude of tonifying and protective actions, Siberian Ginseng is considered one of the most important “adaptogenic” herbs for supporting immunity and improving resistance to stress and fatigue.
Stress has many effects on the human body; mentally, emotionally and physically, stress can lead to many forms of illness and fatigue. Adaptogens help us respond better to stress. Siberian Ginseng helps regulate the manufacture and secretions of our adrenal hormones, strengthens the adrenal glands and supports our nervous system.
The adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that we can't live without, including sex hormones and cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions.
Siberian Ginseng was used by the former Soviet Union to help their Olympians, soldiers and astronauts perform better. Some studies have shown improved endurance performance and shortened the recovery time from physical activity. It was also given to people affected by the Chernobyl disaster to counteract the effects of radiation.
A number of studies have shown Siberian Ginseng to help with concentration, focus, cognitive function and mental performance. It has also been shown to improve short-term memory (note to self, I really need to drink more!)
Colds and Flu
Siberian ginseng has 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
Has been traditionally used to boost fertility in both men and women. Supports healthy menstruation and uterine tone in women. Shown to significantly raise free testosterone levels in men resulting in a higher sperm count and motility.
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.
Siberian Ginseng has been shown to display immune-stimulant and anti-cancer properties. These may affect tumour growth and provide an anti-fatigue effect for cancer patients, in particular for those suffering from lung cancer. There is some evidence that a carbohydrate in Siberian ginseng may possess immune stimulatory and anti-tumour effects amongst other anti-cancer properties. It is reported to make cancer-related chemotherapy more effective and has been used to treat chemotherapy induced bone marrow suppression.
Consumption of all Ginsengs should be checked with a doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. All ginseng are unsuitable for people with high blood pressure. Because it lowers blood-glucose levels, the herb should not be used by diabetics without medical consultation.
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.