What is it?
Siberian ginseng is often called an "adaptogen." This is a non-medical term used to describe substances that can supposedly strengthen the body and increase general resistance to daily stress.
In addition to being used as an adaptogen, Siberian ginseng is used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels such as high blood pressure, low blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and rheumatic heart disease.
It is also used for kidney disease, Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, high cholesterol, improving loss of sensation in extremities (peripheral neuropathy), fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, reducing the effects of a hangover, flu, colds, chronic bronchitis, and tuberculosis. It is also used for treating the side effects of cancer chemotherapy.
Some people use Siberian ginseng to improve athletic performance and the ability to do work. They also use it to treat sleep problems (insomnia) and the symptoms of infections caused by herpes simplex type 2.
It is also used to boost the immune system, prevent colds, and increase appetite.
In manufacturing, Siberian ginseng is added to skin care products.
Don't confuse Siberian ginseng with other types of ginseng. Siberian ginseng is not the same herb as American or Panax ginseng. Be careful about which product you choose. American and Panax ginseng can be a lot more expensive. It is said that years ago, the Soviet Union wanted to provide its athletes with the advantages offered by ginseng but wanted a less expensive version. So, Siberian ginseng became popular, and this is why most studies on Siberian ginseng have been done in Russia.
You should know that the quality of Siberian ginseng products varies a lot. Siberian ginseng is often misidentified or contains "adulterants," which are other ingredients that do not contribute to the benefit of the product, but take up space in the product. Silk vine is a common adulterant of Siberian ginseng.
Before taking Siberian ginseng, talk with your healthcare provider if you take any medications. This herb interacts with many prescription drugs.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for SIBERIAN GINSENG are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Bipolar disorder. Taking Siberian ginseng plus lithium by mouth for 6 weeks appears to induce a similar response rate and remission rate as taking lithium plus fluoxetine in people with bipolar disorder.
- Relieving symptoms of the common cold, when used in combination with an herb called andrographis. Some clinical research shows that taking a specific combination product containing Siberian ginseng plus andrographis (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) by mouth improves symptoms of the common cold when started within 72 hours of symptom onset. Some symptoms can improve after 2 days of treatment. However, it generally takes 4-5 days of treatment for the maximum benefit. Some research suggests this combination of Siberian ginseng and andrographis relieves cold symptoms in children better than echinacea. Also taking a specific product containing Siberian ginseng, echinacea, and malabar nut (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) for 6 days appears to improve coughing and congestion better than taking the drug bromohexine.
- Diabetes. Taking Siberian ginseng extract appears to decrease blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
- A viral infection called herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2). Taking a specific Siberian ginseng extract, standardized to contain a specific ginseng ingredient called eleutheroside 0.3% (Elagen), seems to reduce the number, severity, and duration of herpes simplex type 2 infections.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Improving athletic performance. Research on the effects of Siberian ginseng for improving athletic performance is conflicting. Some research shows that taking a specific Siberian ginseng product (Endurox) does not seem to improve breathing or heart rate recovery following treadmill, cycling, or stair-stepping exercises. Also, taking a Siberian ginseng liquid extract that contains chemicals called eleutheroside B and eleutheroside E does not appear to improve endurance or performance in trained distance runners. However, other research shows that taking powdered Siberian ginseng containing these two chemicals might improve breathing and endurance while cycling.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. Taking Siberian ginseng by mouth does not seem to reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Mental performance. Early research suggests that Siberian ginseng might improve memory and feelings of well-being in middle-aged people. Also, taking a combination of rhodiola, schisandra, and Siberian ginseng (ADAPT-232) seems to improve attention and mental speed and accuracy in women experiencing mental stress.
- An inherited disorder that causes swelling and fevers (Familial Mediterranean fever). Early research suggests that taking a combination of Siberian ginseng, andrographis, schisandra, and licorice (ImmunoGuard, Inspired Nutritionals) reduces the duration, number, and severity of attaches of familial Mediterranean fever in children.
- Hangover. Early research suggests that taking Siberian ginseng extract might relieve some symptoms associated with a hangover.
- Heart disease. Early research suggests that injecting Siberian ginseng intravenously (by IV) might help reduce some risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol and an abnormal heart rate.
- High Cholesterol. Taking Siberian ginseng extract appears to decrease triglyceride and total cholesterol levels.
- Flu. Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing Siberian ginseng plus andrographis (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) helps relieve symptoms faster and reduce the risk of flu complications better than taking the drug amantadine.
- Stress. Early research suggests taking Siberian ginseng root has no effect on stress levels when taken alone or with stress management training.
- Stroke. Early research suggests that injecting Siberian ginseng intravenously (by IV) might help treat strokes caused by a blockage of blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.
- Osteoarthritis. Taking a combination of Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and rehmannia for 6 weeks seems to improve physical function in people with knee osteoarthritis. However, the combination does not seem to reduce pain or stiffness.
- Osteoporosis. Early research suggests that adding rehmannia and Siberian ginseng to calcium plus vitamin D treatment for one year helps reduce the loss of bone density in the spine and thigh bone in postmenopausal women.
- Pneumonia. Early research suggests that taking a combination of rhodiola, schisandra, and Siberian ginseng (Chisan) along with standard treatment for 10-15 days helps reduce the length of time that antibiotics are needed and may improve quality of life in people with pneumonia better than standard treatment alone.
- Quality of life. Some research shows that Siberian ginseng significantly improves sociability and sense of well-being in people over 65 years of age after 4 weeks of treatment. But the effects seem to disappear after 8 weeks.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Chemotherapy side effects.
- Kidney problems.
- Low oxygen levels.
- Motion sickness.
- High cholesterol.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Siberian ginseng is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth, long-term, or when injected intravenously (by IV), short term. Siberian ginseng has been taken by mouth in combination with rehmannia, calcium, and vitamin D for up to one year. Siberian ginseng has been injected by IV for up to 2 weeks.
Special precautions & warnings:Children: Siberian ginseng is POSSIBLY SAFE in teenagers (ages 12-17 years) when taken by mouth for up to 6 weeks. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of Siberian ginseng when taken by teenagers long-term.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking Siberian ginseng if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bleeding disorders: Siberian ginseng contains chemicals that might slow blood clotting. In theory, Siberian ginseng might increase the risk of bleeding and bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
Heart conditions: Siberian ginseng can cause a pounding heart, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure. People who have heart disorders (e.g., "hardening of the arteries," rheumatic heart disease, or history of heart attack) should use Siberian ginseng only under a healthcare provider's supervision.
Diabetes: Siberian ginseng might increase or decrease blood sugar. In theory, Siberian ginseng might affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar carefully if you take Siberian ginseng and have diabetes.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Siberian ginseng might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don't use Siberian ginseng.
High blood pressure: Siberian ginseng should not be used by people with blood pressure over 180/90. Siberian ginseng might make high blood pressure worse.
Mental conditions such as mania or schizophrenia: Siberian ginseng might make these conditions worse. Use with caution.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Alcohol (Ethanol)
- Alcohol can cause sedative effects such as sleepiness and drowsiness. Siberian ginseng might also cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Taking large amounts of Siberian ginseng along with alcohol might cause you to become too sedated.
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
- Digoxin (Lanoxin) helps the heart beat more strongly. One person had too much digoxin in their system while taking a natural product that might have had Siberian ginseng in it. But it is unclear if Siberian ginseng or other herbs in the supplement were the cause.
- Siberian ginseng might have an effect like a "water pill" or diuretic. Taking Siberian ginseng might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates)
- Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Siberian ginseng might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. Taking Siberian ginseng along with medications that are changed by the liver might increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking Siberian ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some of these medications that are changed by the liver include clozapine (Clozaril), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), fluvoxamine (Luvox), haloperidol (Haldol), imipramine (Tofranil), mexiletine (Mexitil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), pentazocine (Talwin), propranolol (Inderal), tacrine (Cognex), theophylline (Slo-bid, Theo-Dur, others), zileuton (Zyflo), zolmitriptan (Zomig), and others.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates)
- Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Siberian ginseng might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. Taking Siberian ginseng along with medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking Siberian ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), diazepam (Valium), zileuton (Zyflo), celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), tolbutamide (Tolinase), torsemide (Demadex), warfarin (Coumadin), estradiol (Estrace), tacrine (Cognex), verapamil (Calan), and others.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Siberian ginseng might affect blood sugar by lowering blood sugar levels. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking Siberian ginseng along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low or cause your diabetes medication to be less effective. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Medications moved by pumps in cells (Organic Anion-Transporting Polypeptide Substrates)
- Some medications are moved by pumps in cells. Siberian ginseng might change how these pumps work and decrease how much of some medications get absorbed by the body. This could make these medications less effective. Some of these medications that are moved by pumps in cells include bosentan (Tracleer), celiprolol (Celicard, others), etoposide (VePesid), fexofenadine (Allegra), fluoroquinolone antibiotics, glyburide (Micronase, Diabeta), irinotecan (Camptosar), methotrexate, nadolol (Corgard), paclitaxel (Taxol), saquinavir (Fortovase, Invirase), rifampin, statins, talinolol, torsemide (Demadex), troglitazone, and valsartan (Diovan).
- Medications moved by pumps in cells (P-glycoprotein Substrates)
- Some medications are moved by pumps into cells. Siberian ginseng might make these pumps less active and increase how much of some medications get absorbed by the body. This might increase the side effects of some medications.
Some medications that are moved by these pumps include etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine, ketoconazole, itraconazole, amprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, saquinavir, cimetidine, ranitidine, diltiazem, verapamil, corticosteroids, erythromycin, cisapride (Propulsid), fexofenadine (Allegra), cyclosporine, loperamide (Imodium), quinidine, and others.
- Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
- Siberian ginseng might increase the activity of the immune system. Taking Siberian ginseng along with medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
- Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
- Siberian ginseng might slow blood clotting. Taking Siberian ginseng along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
- Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
- Siberian ginseng might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking Siberian ginseng along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) substrates)
- Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Siberian ginseng might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. Taking Siberian ginseng along with medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking Siberian ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver. However, this interaction is not verified with certainty in humans yet.
Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), and others.
- Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
- Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Siberian ginseng might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down these medications. Taking Siberian ginseng along with medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking Siberian ginseng, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications changed by the liver include lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Siberian ginseng might lower blood sugar. Taking Siberian ginseng along with herbs and supplements that might also lower blood sugar might cause your blood sugar to go too low or cause your diabetes medication to be less effective. Some of these products include bitter melon, ginger, goat's rue, fenugreek, kudzu, gymnema, and others.
- Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
- Siberian ginseng might slow blood clotting. Taking Siberian ginseng along with herbs or supplements that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some of these herbs and supplements include angelica, clove, danshen, fish oil, garlic, ginger, Panax ginseng, red clover, turmeric, vitamin E, and others.
- Herbs that might cause sleepiness and drowsiness
- Siberian ginseng might act like a sedative. That is, it might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Taking Siberian ginseng along with other herbs that also act like sedatives might increase its effects and side effects. Herbs with sedative effects include calamus, California poppy, catnip, German chamomile, gotu kola, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, lemon balm, sage, St. John's wort, sassafras, skullcap, valerian, wild carrot, wild lettuce, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
- For herpes simplex type 2 infections: Siberian ginseng extract standardized to contain eleutheroside E 0.3% in doses of 400 mg per day.
- For the common cold: 400 mg of a combination of Siberian ginseng plus a specific andrographis extract, standardized to contain 4-5.6 mg andrographolide (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) three times daily.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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