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wǔ wèi zi, literally "five-flavor berry;" gomishi (Japan); Limonnik (Russia); magnolia vine


One of the “fifty fundamental” herbs in the Chinese pharmacopeia; ancient Chinese herbalists placed schisandra in the First Class of herbs.

Five flavors benefit the five yin organs: liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, spleen.

Family: (Schisandraceae)

Description: The hardy vine in the Magnolia lineage has shiny leaves and grapelike bunches of small, peppercorn-size, bright red fruits (if there are both female and male plants). East Asia is home to about twenty-five species of schisandra. Likes some shade and fertile, moist, well-drained soil; care, requirements like grapes. The hybrid 'Eastern Prince' is self-fertile; seedlings are typically single-sex plants. The best quality berries are bright red, large, plump, oily, and shiny.

Origins: From the Greek schizein, “to cleave,” and andros, “man,” the cleft anther cells on the stamens

Dose: Tea (boil 5 minutes, steep an hour) or infusion= ½ cup 3-4 times a day Powder = ¼-1/3 teaspoonful mixed into food or water. (Better than capsules.) Tincture = 2-4 dropperfuls, 3-4 times a day. (One of the few Chinese herbs used as a tincture.) Works well with astragalus. There is a lovely synergy with Goji that has long been noted.

Cautions: Schisandra fruit is generally considered safe. It occasionally causes heartburn, upset stomach, decreased appetite, stomach pain, skin rash, and itching. Might cause the uterus to contract (miscarriage); could possibly stimulate the central nervous system (increasing intracranial pressure and triggering epileptics); may worsen GERD or peptic ulcers; see drug interactions at end.

Taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy

Properties: Adaptogen, hepatoprotective, antiviral, neuroprotective, antioxidant, cardiotonic, cough-suppressing, expectorant, radioprotection of the fetoplacental system of pregnant women, antioxidant (more effective than vitamin E)

Shisandra is a classic adaptogen that improves the functioning of the central nervous, sympathetic nervous, endocrine, immune, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems. As with all adaptogens, regular use enhances longevity and helps prevent chronic diseases. Shisandra is said to normal the body’s acid-base balance. Schisandra increases physical working capacity and affords a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors including heat shock, burns of all kinds, frostbite, immobilization, swimming under load in an atmosphere with decreased air pressure, aseptic inflammation, irradiation, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals.

Constituents: lignans (constituting about 19 percent of the weight of the fruits) schisandrin, deoxy-schisandrin, gomisins, and pregomisin.

Schisandra Benefits

  • promotes humoral and cell-mediated immune responses

  • calms the spirit and refresh the heart

  • protects against emotional stress

  • decreases cortisol levels

  • aids the kidneys

  • protects against influenza epidemics

  • combats physical exhaustion and fatigue

  • normalizes blood pressure

  • improves brain efficiency, performance

  • increases accuracy of movement

  • increases work capacity , builds strength

  • increases endurance

  • mildly stimulates and calms the central nervous system

  • improves reflexes

  • improves impaired vision, esp myopia in children

  • improves night vision, reduces hunger, thirst and exhaustion; “it gives forces to follow a sable all the day without food” say native Nanai hunters.

  • a remedy for colds and sea-sickness, by the Ainu people, who call it repnihat.

  • speeds wound healing

  • strong effects on endocrine system: enhances ovarian function; increases sperm production

  • treats liver conditions
    effective against viral hepatitis
    reduces blood levels of an enzyme called glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) in people with hepatitis. A lower SGPT means less damage to the liver.
    protects the liver against chemical- and drug-induced damage
    promotes healing of existing damage
    regenerates hepatocytes
    increases hepatic glutathione
    protect against the dangers of acetaminophen and tetracycline

  • astringes the Qi of the lungs and kidneys, relieving

  • diarrhea, dysentery

  • frequent urination

  • excessive sweating, night sweats, menopausal sweats

  • profuse vaginal discharge

  • spermatorrhea; premature ejaculation

  • excess phlegm

  • congestion and constriction in the head

  • thirst

Schisandra Has Been Used to Counter

  • alcoholism * ADHD

  • anxiety * caffeine’s stimulatory effect

  • ulcerated skin * tiredness and sleeplessness

  • stress-induced palpitations * wet coughs, wheezing

  • chronic sinusitis, otitis * COPD

  • asthma * PMS

  • pneumonia * immune deficiency

  • nervous conditions * viral hepatitis

  • acute gastrointestinal diseases * stomach and duodenal ulcers

  • allergic dermatitis * bad dreams

  • chronic diarrhea, dysentery * memory loss.

  • sleep problems (insomnia) * nerve pain

  • high cholesterol * erectile dysfunction

  • radiation * motion sickness

  • counteracts the effects of sugar

  • gastric hyper- and hypo-secretion, chronic gastritis

  • physical trauma (burns, extreme cold, oxygen deprivation)

  • Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated the efficiency of Schisandra in helping those with depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric problems.

Stories, Lore, Magic:

Schisandra is staggeringly popular in Asia, where it is known as the “Quintessence of Herbs.”

It is the only herb known that tonifies all three of the Three Treasures (Jing, Qi and Shen).  Jing is primary essence; it determines one’s life span, strength and vitality.  Chi is life force. Shen is consciousness and emotional energy.

It is the only herb that enters all twelve of the meridian systems to nourish all of our internal organs and functions.

It is the only herb that simultaneously tonifies all five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal).

First mentioned in Emperor Shen Nong’s herbal compendium in 2700 BCE

Huai Nan Gong, after consuming Schizandra for many years, didn’t get wet in water and wasn’t burned by fire.  He was given the name “Jade Girl,” to signify his eternal youth and radiance.

In ancient imperial Asian courts, Schizandra revered as a beauty tonic – and as a powerful aphrodisiac.

An official drug in the Russian Pharmacopeia since 1961.

Tens of tons of berries are used annually in Russia to make juice, wines, extracts, and sweets.

Studies on isolated organs, tissues, cells and enzymes find Schisandra affects smooth muscles, uterus myotonic activity, arachidonic acid release, biosynthesis of leukotriene B(4) in leukocytes, platelet activating factor activity, carbohydrate-phosphorus metabolism, the formation of heat shock protein and polyamines, tissue respiration and oxygen consumption, and the tolerance of an organism to oxygen intoxication. The lignans, schisandrin, and gomisin A induce interleukin (IL)-8, macrophage inflammatory protein-1β, and granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) release by THP-1 cells.

Possible Drug Interactions

Schisandra might increase how quickly the liver breaks down some medications, specifically: Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates such as celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), tolbutamide (Tolinase), torsemide (Demadex), and warfarin (Coumadin); and Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates, such as lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), diltiazem (Cardizem), estrogens, indinavir (Crixivan), triazolam (Halcion). Schisandra might increase how much tacrolimus (Prograf) is absorbed from the gut.

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