Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Though Schisandra has a long history of traditional use in Chinese herbal Medicine, the first studies recognising it for its health benefits as an adaptogen and antioxidant were actually conducted in Russia, where it was listed in their “Official Medicine of the USSR” in the 1960s. More recently, it has been included in the National Pharmacopoeia of the USSR and in their State Register of Drugs.¹
This vine with purple-red berries, which goes by the Latin name Schisandra chinensis, is also called the five flavour fruit because of the fact that the berries are said to taste sweet, salty, bitter, pungent and sour all in one.² This herb owes most of its medicinal value to the lignans within the fruit, and it is most commonly used as an adaptogen and to support liver health.³ Occasionally it is also used in formulations to help improve energy and endurance.⁴
Let’s take a closer look at what Schisandra can be helpful for.
Adapt to Stress
Schisandra is most commonly used as an adpatogen, which, as the term implies, helps our bodies to adapt to stressors, or maintain homeostasis. It can help to improve endurance and efficiency in work and also reduce the physical effects of stress on the body. ⁵ Additionally, it can help to support mental efficiency as well. ⁶
Fight the Effects of Fatigue
Schisandra extract can help to reduce the effects of fatigue and also speed up recovery from work-related fatigue.¹ In other words, Schisandra helps your body to maintain homeostasis better. What is also interesting to note, is that in some instances, Schisandra could start to be effective after the first dose. ¹
Our liver acts as a filter in our body and it has a vital function in maintaining balance and helping to sustain good health. Schisandra can often be found in formulation with other herbs to support liver function. Some studies suggest that it can be helpful in protecting the liver from damage, while the whole plant extract also seems to induce phase-II liver detoxification. It does this by increasing the glutathione enzymes (called glutathione s-transferases) which are needed for this phase.³ This process is essential in binding toxins and helping to eliminate them from the body.
Schisandra is a gentle herb which is helpful in helping us cope with stressful times or if our liver needs a bit of support. As with most supplements and herbs, please speak to your doctor before taking Schisandra if you are taking any prescription medication.
1. Panossian AG & Wikman G, 2008, “Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine”, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Vol 118(2), pp. 183-212.
2. Whelan, C. 2018, “Schisandra”, Healthline, cited on 28/09/2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/schisandra#benefits
3. Braun, L. & Cohen, 2015, “Herbs and Natural Supplements – 4th Edition”, Chapter: Schisandra, Churchill Livingstone, Chatswood NSW, Australia, pp. 880 – 891.
4. eMedicineHealth, cited on 2/10/2018, https://www.emedicinehealth.com/schisandra/vitamins-supplements.htm
5. Lupandin AV in Bone, K. 2003, “A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs”, Chapter: Schisandra, pp. 405-408, Churchill Livingstone, Missouri, USA.
6. Brekhman I in Bone, K. 2003, “A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs”, Chapter: Schisandra, pp. 405-408, Churchill Livingstone, Missouri, USA.