Siberian ginseng, or Eleuthero is one of the most important and widely used herbal remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It has long been used as an adaptogen and tonic to strengthen “qi” or “chi,” –or the body’s energy. It invigorates the body and mind, and has been shown in studies and among users to reduce mental and physical stress. Among its other benefits, it has been found to help maintain healthy blood circulation, support healthy immune function and a healthy inflammatory response; help the liver to detoxify, enhance memory, mood and cognition, relieve symptoms of menopause and menstrual disorders, and, perhaps most significantly, relieve chronic fatigue.
Master herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of multiple books on herbal remedies and Lyme disease, advocates Siberian ginseng for managing a variety of Lyme-related symptoms, including chronic fatigue and depression. In his book, Healing Lyme, he writes that Siberian ginseng is useful for alleviating chronic fatigue, mental fog and confusion, low immune function and difficulty in overcoming the disease.
On page 135, he writes, “A number of clinical trials have shown significant immune-enhancing activity, including significant increases in immunocompetent cells, specifically T-lymphocytes (helper/inducers, cytotoxic and natural killer cells. Tests of the herb have repeatedly shown that it increases the ability of human beings to withstand adverse conditions, increases mental alertness and improves performance.”[i]
Siberian ginseng has long been one of my favorite herbal remedies, and I used it often during the first years that I battled Lyme disease, especially when I was deeply fatigued and needed an energy boost. I also found that it significantly improved my mood and cognition, and helped me to work longer throughout the day.
Recently, I began taking it again after my sweetheart Bill was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and I became exhausted and overwhelmed by the stress of traveling to and from the hospital daily for a month. I hadn’t taken Siberian Ginseng for at least five years and so had kind of forgotten about it. But one day as I was driving to the hospital, I became shaky and weak, and thought, “My adrenal glands need help. I badly need energy. What can I do?” And then it popped into my mind—Siberian Ginseng! So I ordered some and since re-starting this marvelous herb, I have begun to recover some of my energy and stamina, and as a side benefit, have found that my focus and concentration are better.
Siberian ginseng can be used long term, although Buhner, in his book, Healing Lyme, recommends a weaker tincture for long-term use (say, 12 months), and stronger formulations (eg. 2 parts herb to one part liquid, or one part herb to one part liquid) for severe or acute cases of Lyme disease.
Most researchers agree that Siberian Ginseng is most likely safe when it’s used for just a short period of time. In a few people, it may cause insomnia, headache, nervousness, drowsiness, and hypoglycemia, so it’s a good idea to consult your doctor or other qualified holistic health care practitioner before taking this herb. Siberian ginseng may also be contraindicated in people with heart conditions, diabetes, or hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer, so if you have one of these conditions, again, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before taking it.
A handful of studies have proven some of the benefits of Siberian ginseng. For instance, one study, the results of which were published in Phytotherapy Research in 2005, showed Siberian ginseng to inhibit brain inflammation and microglial activation in conditions of brain ischemia, a condition in which there is insufficient blood flow to the brain. Because the brain is often highly inflamed in Lyme disease, it may be useful for helping to relieve neurological symptoms caused by Lyme.
In another study on rats, the results of which were published in Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicology, Siberian Ginseng was shown to inhibit histamine release from peritoneal mast cells. Some integrative doctors have found that people with Lyme disease, mold illness and other severe health conditions have mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) or other histamine disorders, which are either a contributing cause or effect of their conditions. MCAD and excessive histamine release cause widespread inflammation and symptoms. This study suggests that Siberian ginseng may therefore be a useful therapy for controlling histamine release.
In a third study on the elderly, the results of which were published in 2004 in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Siberian ginseng was shown to improve energy, mental health and social functioning after just four weeks of treatment. These findings confirm its usefulness as an energy and mood enhancer. Depression is a common symptom of Lyme disease, and occurs both as a result of the disease process itself and the difficult circumstances that it creates in a person’s life, so Siberian Ginseng may be an ideal remedy for helping to mitigate this symptom.
Indeed, I am re-integrating this marvelous herb into my list of go-to remedies, whenever I need a little energy boost, encouragement or push to get through stressful times. Perhaps you will find it to be a useful go-to remedy, as well.
Further Reading and References.
Buhner, S. 2005. Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections. Raven Press, Pp. 135-137.
Yungmin Bu, Zhen Hua Jin, Sun Young Park, Sunkyung Baek, Sungju Rho, Nina Ha, Seong Kyu Park, Hocheol Kim. Siberian ginseng reduces infarct volume in transient focal cerebral ischaemia in Sprague-Dawley rats. Phytother Res. 2005 Feb;19(2):167-9. PMID: 15852490
H J Jeong, H N Koo, N I Myung, M K Shin, J W Kim, D K Kim, K S Kim, H M Kim, Y M Lee. Inhibitory effects of mast cell-mediated allergic reactions by cell cultured Siberian Ginseng. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2001 Feb;23(1):107-17. PMID: 11322643
A F G Cicero, G Derosa, R Brillante, R Bernardi, S Nascetti, A Gaddi
Effects of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus maxim.) on elderly quality of life: a randomized clinical trial.Arch Gerontol Geriatr Suppl. 2004;(9):69-73. PMID: 15207399
Hartz AJ, Bentler S, Noyes R, Hoehns J, Logemann C, Sinift S, Butani Y, Wang W, Brake K, Ernst M, Kautzman H. "Randomized controlled trial of Siberian ginseng for chronic fatigue." Psychol Med. 2004 Jan;34(1):51-61.
Lee YJ, Chung HY, Kwak HK, Yoon S. "The effects of A. senticosus supplementation on serum lipid profiles, biomarkers of oxidative stress, and lymphocyte DNA damage in postmenopausal women." Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Oct 10;375(1):44-8.
[i] Buhner, S. 2005. Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections. Raven Press, Pp. 135-137.
Connie Strasheim is the author, co-author or ghostwriter of 10 wellness books, including four on Lyme disease, and the just-released New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Real Healing Strategies that Work. She is also a medical copywriter and Editor of Pro Health’s Lyme disease page, as well as Editor of the Alternative Cancer Research Institute. Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine and prayer, and she collaborates with some of the world's best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. You can learn more about her work at: www.ConnieStrasheim.org.