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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Eleutherococcus senticosus

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Eleutherococcus senticosus, sometimes called "siberian ginsing" (though there is question as to whether or not these are the same substance) is an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt to stresses of various kinds, whether heat, cold, exertion, trauma, sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, radiation, infection, or psychological... They do this by "normalizing" the body's processes - sometimes they act by calming the activity of systems that are exaggerated in the body, and sometimes they strengthen systems that are sluggish.

Effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

A fairly substantial (96-participant) double-blind, placebo-controlled study failed to find Eleutherococcus senticosus("Siberian ginseng") helpful for people with CFS.28 Over the 2-month study period, both eleutherococcus and placebo reduced fatigue symptoms, but there was no statistically significant difference. (The researchers managed to find some benefit by resorting to statistically questionable after-the-fact procedures.)

Read more details about Eleutherococcus senticosus.

Safety Issues

According to studies performed primarily in the former Soviet Union, Eleutherococcusappears to present a low order of toxicity in both the short- and long-term. Human trials have not resulted in any significant side effects. 1 Safety in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease is not known.

One report suggests that Eleutherococcusmay alter the results of a test for the medication digoxin. 2 However, it is not clear whether it was the Eleutherococcusor a contaminant (eg, digoxin mixed with the herb) that caused these problems.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • Digoxin : Eleutherococcus may interfere with blood tests designed to measure digoxin level.


  1. Farnsworth NR, Kinghorn AD, Soejarto DD, et al. Siberian ginseng ( Eleutherococcus senticosus ): current status as an adaptogen. Econ Med Plant Res. 1985;1:156-215.
  2. McRae S. Elevated serum digoxin levels in a patient taking digoxin and Siberian ginseng. CMAJ. 1996;155:293-295.
  1. Hartz AJ, Bentler S, Noyes R, et al. Randomized controlled trial of Siberian ginseng for chronic fatigue. Psychol Med. 2004;34:51-61.

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