The Botanical Secret: Siberian Ginseng

May 29, 2017

With 2017 set to be the year of botanicals it's an exciting time for Botanic Lab as many of the ingredients that we champion come into the spotlight. Botanical complexity is at the heart of everything we do (the clue is in our name).  We have relished the challenge of incorporating these powerful and interesting ingredients into drinks that will excite your taste buds. That's not always the easiest of tasks.  In meaningful quantities, many potent botanicals have a challenging flavour and are avoided by mainstream food producers. 

In this series of posts, we'd like to share with you some of our favourite botanical ingredients - the history, origin and traditional uses and give you an insight into the very special plants that we put at the centre of our drink creations.

Siberian ginseng, also known as eleuthero, is a species of small, woody shrub from the Araliacae family, native to North east Asia, Japan and Russia.  Its scientific name Eleutherococcus senticosus (from Greek) means "free-berried," and senticosus, from the Latin word sentis (thorn-bush, briar) is an adjective meaning "thorny" or "full of briers or thorns."

Siberian ginseng has a history of use dating back more than 2,000 years and is widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine where it is known as Ci Wu Jia (刺五加).   It was traditionally consumed to maintain good health overall as opposed to treating ill health, and was especially important for the elderly to boost their quality of life. 

China's greatest naturalist Li Shih-Chen classed Siberian ginseng a superior herb in his “Great Catalogue of Medicinal Herbs” and documented “its action is to invigorate physical energy, regulate vigour, strengthen the skeleton and tendons, and increase one's ambition”.  We are sold.  One of our favourite adaptogenic herbs, it is rumoured that Siberian Ginseng was the first herb to be given the term “adaptogen".  Adaptogens are a unique group of herbal ingredients which help your body adjust to external stress factors, ranging from daily stresses to extreme heat or cold, infections and trauma.  

It became popular in the West in the 1950s, when a Russian scientist (I. I. Brekhman) found that it had great power as a stress reducer. Originally used by people in the Taiga region of Siberia, it was found that people taking the herb had much better physical ability and resistance to disease.

Supporting recovery from strenuous exercise Siberian ginseng has been shown to enhance mental and physical endurance without the come down that accompanies caffeine. As a stimulating herb it is hard to beat, with research showing it improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle, enhancing energy, allowing the user to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recovery from workouts much quicker. It’s clear to see why it was adopted by Soviet Olympic athletes and cosmonauts to support their training regimes.  

Classed as a tonic herb and a mild stimulant, Siberian ginseng has the ability to increase your work capacity after a single dose, providing immediate and sustained long term energy.  Besides protecting the body from stress, Siberian Ginseng also increases oxygenation of the cells, thereby increasing endurance, alertness and even visual acuity. This increased oxygenation leads to better circulation – especially to the brain – helping to restore memory, concentration and mental clarity.   

Another important action of an adaptogen is “immunomodulation” – a process by which an immune response is altered to a desired level. This is partly achieved by recharging the adrenal glands which when over-taxed and exhausted can cause different systems in the body to break down.

This adaptable hero herb also offers benefits to both men and women in the realm of sexual health. In women it supports healthy menstruation and uterine tone and is often prescribed by herbalists to combat infertility related depression and fatigue.  It offers a fertility boost to men too with a recent study finding it significantly raises free testosterone levels resulting in a better sperm count and motility. 

Eleuthero is a true herbal superhero for our times but especially useful to those living a dynamic lifestyle or with highly stressful jobs.

You can find it in potent doses in our wonder Tonic 1.