Long before the days of big pharmaceutical companies and manufactured drugs, civilization relied on the power of natural remedies.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, many wild-growing plants, herbs and mushrooms were believed to treat and even cure some of man's most frightful ailments.
However, as science and technology have developed, nature has taken a back seat to pave the way for advanced treatments, but still, faith in mother nature has remained for many people.
Schisandra is just one of many natural remedies still used today. Modern science has put its efficacy under the microscope, with some surprising results.
So, what exactly is Schisandra, and how do you use it?
What Is Schisandra?
Schisandra, or schizandra (scientific name Schisandra chinensis), is a plant species native to northern China.
This plant is a fruit-bearing vine that is uniquely described as having five tastes. These are salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and pungent.
Schisandra is dioecious, meaning that its male and female reproductive organs are in separate species.
This five-flavour fruit plant can grow anywhere between 20 to 30 feet, and it boasts narrow leaves, twining vines, and red berries.
These evergreen climbers can be found growing in forests or beside streams and brooks in the wild.
Although it's native to China, Schisandra can also be found growing throughout east Asia, Japan, and Korea.
What Makes Schisandra Berry So Special?
Schisandra was first mentioned in China in the 16th century by a famed herbalist, Li Shih-Chen.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, schisandra has been used for more than 2000 years to treat conditions such as hepatitis, increase energy, treat fatigue and cold symptoms, and to function as a male sexual tonic.
Herbalists believed that Schisandra had properties that could help treat the kidneys, heart, and lungs and provide cardiotonic, antibacterial, and analgesic effects.
Schisandra was also believed to benefit the nervous system, promote bile secretion, inhibit gastric secretion, and act as a uterine stimulant.
So, why did they think this?
Well, although the science would have been lacking 2000 years ago, we are now starting to discover some of the main properties found in schisandra.
Let’s take a look at the main compounds found in schisandra thought to be driving its medical properties:
Lignans are a type of polyphenol found in plants, most often in whole grains, seeds, and vegetables.
Lignans mimic the role of estrogen, and they have powerful antioxidant properties which may protect cells from damage.
What’s more, Korean researchers discovered that lignans isolated from Schisandra chinensis had notable anti-inflammatory effects.
Three of the nine lignans found in Schisandra reduced nitric oxide production, reduced the expression of mRNA, and more.
2.) Schisandrin A,B,C
Schisandrins (or schizandrins) are types of bioactive compounds uniquely found in Schisandra chinensis.
Dibenzocyclooctadiene lignans such as schisandrin A, B and C are thought to have a range of benefits, including neuroprotective abilities and anti-inflammatory effects.
3.) Schizandrol A, B
Schizandrols are also unique compounds extracted from the Schisandra plant.
Schizandrols such as Schizandrol A and B are becoming increasingly popular extracts in supplements such as pre-workout formulas as they are believed to have noticeable energy-boosting effects.
4.) Fatty Acids
Fatty acids can be either saturated or unsaturated; however, most fatty acids found in plants such as Schisandra are unsaturated.
Fatty acids are often found in the chloroplasts of the plant and play an essential role in biosynthesis.
Unsaturated fatty acids are considered beneficial for human health - believed to help prevent inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, and even stabilize abnormal heart rhythms.
Schisandra: The Health Benefits
The key compounds found in Schisandra that we’ve just mentioned are believed by many to be beneficial for our health, but is there any scientific evidence to support their efficacy?
Let’s find out.
1.) May Help To Treat Stress And Depression
One animal study examined the effects of Schisandra extract on mice and found that its components exhibited a notable anti-depressant effect; however, this has not yet been confirmed by human studies.
It’s also believed that Schisandra contains adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens may help the body respond to stress, fatigue, and anxiety by modulating the adrenal gland's secretion of stress hormones.
2.) May Aid In Treating Alzheimer's & Parkinsons' Disease
Schisandra may have a positive effect on Alzheimer's disease.
One study conducted in 2017 found that Schisandrin B could potentially inhibit the formation of beta peptides in the brain, which contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Other studies suggest that its neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects may also make it useful in treating both Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.
3.) May Treat Liver Disease
There’s more - according to one animal study performed in 2014, pollen extracts from the Schisandra plant may prevent liver disease.
This study found that the pollen extracts had strong antioxidant contents and hepatoprotective effects in the mice's liver.
Other Benefits Of Schisandra Berries
Some other benefits of Schisandra may include:
- Fighting free radical damage
- Supporting cognitive
- Improving physical performance
- Protecting the lungs and heart
- Treatment for GI disorders
- Fighting symptoms of aging
- Detoxifying the body
Although Schisandra has been used in Chinese medicine to treat these conditions for millennia, there is currently limited scientific evidence to support its efficacy.
Early results have definitely been promising, however, much more research is needed before any clinical conclusions can be drawn.
How To Use Schisandra?
Schisandra can be taken in several forms, most commonly as a dried powder extract, a capsule or a tincture.
There is no official dosage guidelines for Schisandra - the dosage will depend on what type of extract you’re using, how your body tolerates it and what ailments you’re treating.
Dosage guidelines will be provided by the manufacturer of the extract you choose, however, you should always consult your doctor or physician before taking Schisandra.
In terms of how to take it - that’s up to you! Schisandra extract is most often taken with food and drink, and easily mixed into meals, smoothies & juices. Many peole mix it with other anti-aging and hormone balancing supplements such as pine pollen powder to really target these effects.
There are limited studies into the long-term effects of taking Schisandra, however, this evidence suggests it can be used safely for up to twelve weeks minimum.
As always, if you plan to take a herbal medicine such as Schisandra for more extended periods, seek advice from your doctor.
Does Schisandra Have Side Effects?
Although the science suggests Schisandra is safe for human consumption and well tolerated by most people, it may cause unwanted side effects in small numbers of users.
Reported side effects have included:
- A loss of appetite
If you have epilepsy, peptic ulcers, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, you may also be advised not to take Schisandra.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also encouraged not to take this supplement, as the research into its safety is limited.
Schisandra may also interact with other medications. For example, medications broken down by the liver may interact with Schisandra and cause unwanted side effects - as well as reduce the effectiveness of the medication.
Although there are no documented reactions, we’d advise you to take caution.
To wrap it all up, we’ve got a few more answers for you to some of the most commonly asked questions about Schisandra:
Where Can I Buy Schisandra?
The herbal medicine industry is fraught with dodgy operators that are trying to make a quick buck on inferior products.
Before buying Schisandra anywhere, make sure to check that the product is independently tested for contaminants (including mould, mycotoxins and heavy metals), has a potency of at least 10:1 and is sourced ethically and responsibly.
As such, the only two schisandra berry extracts products we personally use at The Bircher Bar are SuperFeast Schisandra and Teelixir Schisandra - you’ll find links directly to them under the banners in this article.
Does Schisandra Have Caffeine?
No, schisandra does not contain caffeine.
Can Schisandra Make You Tired, Cause Headaches or Diarrhea?
Schisandra should not cause you any of these effects unless you are susceptible to experiencing side effects. Schisandra side effects are very rare, however, if you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking it immediately.
Can You Take Schisandra At Night?
Yes, you can definitely take schisandra at night. It isn’t a stimulant and is believed to actually help with insomnia and nerve tension so it is a great herb to take before bed.
Can You Take Schisandra With Ashwagandha?
Yep, it is safe to take schisandra with ashwagandha - in fact, they are a great combination. Many people combine the extracts in tea, juice and smoothies.
Can Dogs Have Schisandra?
Yes, schisandra extracts are thought to help dogs with many of the same health issues that humans use them for. Many mushrooms are good for dogs too - however, always consult your vet before feeding any herbal remedies to your canine friends.
Schisandra is one of many natural remedies that’s been used for centuries to treat a wide range of health conditions.
Although more human research is needed to truly understand and quantitate its benefits, animal studies and preliminary analysis indicates that it may be an effective treatment for many different conditions.
Schisandra is widely available and appears very safe for most people.
To finish up - the video below is a real deep dive into all of the benefits of schisandra berry, so if this article has piqued your interest, grab a cuppa and take the time to watch this one.