ELEUTHERO, SIBERIAN GINSENG, NO RELATION TO TRUE GINSENG: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF ELEUTHERO
Siberian ginseng is no relation to true ginseng, but is so called because it dives new vigour to the elderly. Eleuthero in Greek means to be free, or freedom and I am always reminded of the epitaph on the Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis tomb when I hear this word and two Greek friends of mine who are called Eleutherios. Here is the famous inscription on the roughly hewn wooden cross which marks Kazantzakis grave overlooking Heraklio on
“Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα. Δε φοβούμαι τίποτα. Είμαι λεύτερος.”
The English translation is “I hope for nothing, I fear nothing. I am free.”
Eleuthero has been used for centuries in Chinese traditional medicine as a tea substitute, the dried leaves are used, and also as a medicinal tea which uses the dried root. It is actually for maintaining good health, rather than for curing an illness, and is an adaptagen which means that it helps the body over a period of time. It can lower blood sugar levels and widens blood vessels, so reduces blood pressure.
However it is not recommended that you take it for a prolonged period with six weeks being the maximum. You should not take it if you have high blood pressure though, and it should be avoided by pregnant women. Children should not take Eleuthero either. If you take it you should not drink coffee which could over-stimulate the body and cause side effects.
If you take it in high doses then you may experience uterine bleeding, dizziness, anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability – the symptoms for which it is taken to combat. It is best taken under the careful supervision of your physician.
Research has shown that Eleuthero or Siberian ginseng can boost the immune system so making you less prone to colds and flu. It would seem to be stronger than true ginseng in this regard. It is used as is Skullcap and American ginseng to relieve stress, in the form of a tisane.
There is some evidence that taking Siberian ginseng can increase an elderly person’s longevity and can help with memory retention.
Cicero F. et al 2004 Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics: Supplement (9) pp.69-73, conclude their study, “Effects of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus maxim) on elderly quality of life: a randomized clinical trial” thus:
“In conclusion, E. senticosus safely improves some aspects of mental health and social functioning after 4 weeks of therapy, although these differences attenuate with continued use.”
There is also some evidence that it can be used to fight radiation sickness and the effects of toxic chemicals. In
Britain and North America, the root is often taken to decrease stress, although this ability has not been proved conclusively scientifically. In Taiwan it is used against cancer and hepatitis, and in China it is a traditional remedy for bronchitis, heart problems and rheumatism, among other minor ailments. It also seems to be a mood enhancer. In Europe is regarded as safe to use as it has been used for “decades without any indication of serious risks” according to the European Medicines Agency in their Assessment Report dated 2008. (There are some critics of this it should be noted.) The German Commission E has approved its use for a lack of stamina and general debility, as a tonic and for a “tendency to infection.”
It is a native of the
Far East and a member of the Araliaceae family. It also grows in Siberia where the true ginseng could not flourish due to the cold climate. It is also a native of Japan and Eastern China. Synonyms for the genus include: Eleutherococcus asperatus, Hedera senticosus, Acanthopanas asperatus and A. senticosus.
There is some evidence that taking the root in an infusion internally can help to cure the herpes simplex virus and there are studies to find out what its effects are on cancers, fertility, stomach ulcers, headaches and insomnia. The research already undertaken suggests that it may have an effect on theses diseases and ailments.