Botanical: Schisandra chinensis
Family: Schisandraceae (schisandra)
Other common names: Schizandra, Gomishi, Magnolia Vine, Schisandra Fruit, Wu-wei-zi,
Fruit of Five Flavors, Sandra Berry Vine, Omicha
Women in China, rely on Schisandra to preserve their beauty and maintain youth, and both men and women are said to benefit from its qualities as a sexual enhancer. For thousands of years the herb has been cherished as an anti-ageing tonic that is believed to increase stamina and mental clarity and fight against fatigue and stress. Once a favorite of Chinese emperors, Schisandra has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most effective treatments for liver disorders. Because it helps the body to respond to stressful situations and acts as a mild sedative, Schisandra is even often touted as an herbal antidepressant.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Schisandra Berries, and the beautiful vines upon which they grow, are native to China, Russia, Korea and, some claim, to the eastern part of the United States. Schisandra is a hardy deciduous climber that thrives in virtually any soil, but prefers moist, well-drained soil in partial shade and its preferred position is on a sheltered, shady wall. The woody plant is valued for its attractive flowers, foliage and fruit (the berries), which are used in tasty and nutritious juices, and as an important ingredient in herbal medicine. The plant is fairly compact, adaptable to arbors and walls, and bears oval leaves, pink flowers and spikes of red berries. The vine reaches a length of up to twenty-five feet and is commonly grown in gardens with the aromatic berries dried and used medicinally. Schisandra Berry was highly coveted by the wealthy and was a favorite among Chinese emperors; in China it was called "Fruit of Five Flavors," because
all five basic tastes were represented: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter. It was also considered one of the most useful herbs from the herbal traditions of Asia for the treatment of liver diseases, a tradition that has been echoed in many modern herbal treatments. In China, it was also used as a health tonic and aphrodisiac that was thought to nourish the genitourinary system and sexual organs, and until recently, Schisandra was a rather rare and expensive herb. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is still used to resist infection, improve skin health and as a remedy for insomnia, coughing,
wheezing, diarrhea, spontaneous sweating and thirst. Some of the constituents in Schisandra include hydrocarbon derivatives (e.g. sesquicarene, beta-2-bisabolene, beta-chamigrene, alpha-ylangene), triterpenoid (nigranoic acid), lignins (schizandrin, gamma-schizandrin, schizandrol, deoxy-schizandrin, gomisins and pregomisin), citral, phytosterols (stigmasterol and beta-sitosterol), volatile oils, essential fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E.
Schisandra Berry is considered an adaptogen, in that it normalizes body functions during stressful situations that might alter those functions, helping the body to adapt and return to an overall sense of well-being and increasing the body's resistance to disease and stress. It is also said the Schisandra helps to energize RNA and DNA molecules to rebuild cells.
Used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to remedy liver ailments, Schisandra has maintained its fine reputation as a support to strengthen the liver. It is considered a cholagogue, or substance that increases the production of bile in the liver and delivers it to the gastrointestinal tract. It is said to protect against the progression of cirrhosis into liver cancer and also protect the liver from chemical damage, particularly damage from chemicals that have to be activated by the liver to become poisonous, such as carbon tetrachloride. In addition, laboratory studies have demonstrated its ability to make the enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, which deactivates several kinds of toxic free radicals that attack the outer membranes of liver cells. This substance is believed to offset damage done to the liver by chronic viral hepatitis, alchohol and HIV/AIDS. Schisandra contains lignin compounds that are said to lower high levels of glutamic pyruvic transaminase (GPT) in the blood, which is an indication of hepatitis.
Further support for the liver comes in the form of another constituent in Schisandra, gomison-A, which blocks the production of inflammation-inducing leukotrienes. Gomison-A helps to prevent liver inflammation and tissue destruction (without compromising the immune system's ability to fight the underlying infection). This substance also helps to stimulate the growth of healthy liver tissue and helps to hasten recovery after liver surgery.
Schisandra is thought to balance the body's functions and improve mental function. Active constituents help to relieve emotional and physical depression and reverse depression of the central nervous system. The herb is said to reduce fatigue and physical exhaustion, as well as improve and increase stamina and physical performance and increase the body's capacity to work. Moreover, it is also said to help sharpen mental ability, improve concentration and counter forgetfulness. Animal data suggests that Schisandra increases metabolism via induction of cytochrome P450 and/or glutathione reductase pathway.
For thousands of years, Schisandra Berry has been cherished by Chinese women (and men) to combat ageing. Women have utilized it as a tonic to preserve their beauty and maintain youthful skin, and both men and women use it as an aphrodisiac. In men it is also thought to increase sexual stamina.
Schisandra is considered a mild sedative that exerts a soothing and quieting effect on the body, and has been helpful in cases of insomnia, stress, dizziness, motion sickness, excessive sweating, headache, heart palpitations, anxiety and other problems associated with emotional stress. Furthermore, Schisandra may increase the efficacy of prescription tranquilizers (Valium, Librium, etc.), allowing patients to take lower doses of these potentially addictive drugs (always under a physician's care).
Schisandra Berry is said to improve digestion. The increased bile flow from the liver hastens the digestion of fatty foods and improves utilization of the digested foods, which is thought to relieve many digestive-related disorders, including chronic gastritis, heartburn and indigestion, while it provides a healthy atmosphere for clear, problem-free skin.
Considered a kidney tonic, Schisandra is believed to balance bodily fluids, and as such, it is used to treat night sweats, excessive perspiration, urinary incontinence and the frequent urge to urinate. In contrast, if there is fluid imbalance, Schisandra also helps to promote the production of body fluid when needed and quench thirst.
Schisandra is mildly astringent and helps to control diarrhea, spontaneous sweating and dysentery.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Schisandra Berry Herbal Supplement (it is a uterine stimulant). People who have gallstones or blockages of the bile ducts and those with peptic ulcers, epilepsy and very high blood pressure should also avoid Schisandra. Do not take Schisandra Berry if you have intracranial (in the head) pressure.