Common Name: Siberian Ginseng
Habitats: Mixed and coniferous mountain forests, forming small undergrowth or groups in thickets and edges. Sometimes found in oak groves at the foot of cliffs, very rarely in high forest riparian woodland.
Range: E. Asia – China, Japan, Siberia.
Eleutherococcus senticosus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2 m (6ft 7in) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower in July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.
Edible Parts: Leaves; Tea.
Young leaves and buds – cooked. The dried leaves are used as a tea substitute.
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Medicinal Actions: Adaptogen; Antiinflammatory; Hypoglycaemic; Tonic; Vasodilator.
Siberian ginseng is a powerful tonic herb with an impressive range of health benefits. Unlike many herbs with a medicinal use, it is more useful for maintaining good health rather than treating ill health. Research has shown that it stimulates resistance to stress and so it is now widely used as a tonic in times of stress and pressure. This plant is a very commonly used folk treatment in China and Russia where it is used as a ginseng substitute. It is a pungent bitter-sweet warming herb that is said to be stronger in its action than ginseng.
Regular use is said to restore vigour, improve the memory and increase longevity. The root and the root bark are adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycaemic, tonic and vasodilator. It is taken internally during convalescence and in the treatment of menopausal problems, geriatric debility, physical and mental stress etc. It works by strengthening the body’s natural immune system. It has also been used to combat radiation sickness and exposure to toxic chemicals. This herb is not prescribed for children, and should not be used for more than 3 weeks at one time. Caffeine should not be taken when using this herb. The roots are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.
Prefers a light warm open loamy humus-rich soil and a position sheltered from north and east winds. Prefers a well-drained soil and full sun. (A surprising report, this species is a woodland plant and we would expect it to prefer shade) Tolerates urban pollution and poor soils. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c if they are sheltered from cold winds. A highly polymorphic species. Siberian ginseng is cultivated as a medicinal plant in Russia and China.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It can be slow to germinate. Stored seed requires 6 months warm followed by 3 months cold stratification and can be very slow to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse for at least the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of ripe wood of the current season’s growth, 15 – 30cm long in a cold frame. Root cuttings in late winter. Division of suckers in the dormant season.