What Is the Difference Between American Ginseng & Eleuthero?

By M. Gideon Hoyle

American ginseng, formally known as Panax quinquefolius, is an herb with common reported uses that include improving well-being and mental performance, as well as increasing immune function. It differs chemically from the distantly related plant called eleuthero, or Siberian ginseng, which has common reported uses that include increased recovery from illness, increased immune function and improvements in memory and concentration.

American Ginseng

American ginseng belongs to the same genus of plants as Asian ginseng, formally known as Panax ginseng, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC. Both of these ginseng varieties contain a group of active ingredients called ginsenosides. American ginseng also contains a group of active ingredients called polysaccharide glycans. You may receive American ginseng root or root hairs in forms that include powders, tablets, capsules and alcohol-based extracts. P. quinquefolius must grow for roughly six years before its roots provide their potential benefits. As a result, true American ginseng is rare and expensive.


Eleuthero, formally known as Eleutherococcus senticosus, is a shrub-like plant found in Japan, Korea and China, as well as Siberia, according to the American Cancer Society. It does not belong to the Panax genus, and U.S. law bars the sale of E. senticosus as a ginseng product. Eleuthero gains its potential beneficial effects from polysaccharides and a group of compounds called eleutherosides, which in some cases may mimic the effects of steroids hormones such as estrogen. You may receive eleuthero products in forms that include tinctures, standardized extracts, tablets, capsules and dried root, according to the UMMC.

American Ginseng Effects

Use of American ginseng may help in the treatment of disorders such as type 2 diabetes, heart problems and glucose intolerance, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, researchers must perform more studies to ascertain the real-world benefits of ginseng for these conditions. You may also receive American ginseng to ease the side effects of chemotherapy, prevent cancer or treat a variety of other ailments, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia, chronic hepatitis B, male infertility, neurological problems and congestive heart failure. Evidence for ginseng’s effectiveness in these circumstances is mixed at best.

Eleuthero Effects

The UMMC lists potential benefits of eleuthero that include temporary quality of life improvements and reductions in the length, severity and number of outbreaks of herpes simplex virus type 2. When combined with the herb andrographis, eleuthero may also help decrease the length and severity of cold and flu symptoms. Although you may also receive eleuthero to aid mental or physical performance, evidence for its effectiveness in these circumstances is mixed or inconclusive. In animal testing, the polysaccharides in eleuthero lower blood glucose levels and increase immune function.


You should not take American ginseng if you are pregnant, nursing, have a history of breast cancer or have a bipolar disorder, according to the UMMC. Potential rare side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, insomnia, headache and hypertension. You should not use eleuthero if you have narcolepsy, hypertension or sleep apnea, or if you are pregnant or nursing. Potential side effects include irregular heartbeat, insomnia, nosebleeds, confusion, drowsiness and headache.

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