by Kris Vaughan, CH
The Chinese name for schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is wu wei zi, which means “five-flavors fruit” because this berry has all five flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty). Each taste in an herb is related to a particular function for a certain organ. Having all five flavors tells us that the schisandra berry is beneficial for the five yin organs: liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen. The five flavors give us clues to the health benefits of schisandra berry as a natural remedy.
The first time I ate schisandra berry was an incredible experience. Do you remember the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where the kids ate the candy that tasted like a full meal and they could taste every food in the meal? That is what I got from schisandra. Not turkey, mashed potatoes and peas but clearly five distinct flavors of the schisandra berry.
Schisandra is hepatoprotective, which means that it protects the liver. Schisandra regenerates hepatocytes, the cells which make up 80% of the liver mass. It also increases glutathione, an essential liver antioxidant. In animal studies, it has been shown to provide protection against chemical and drug-induced liver damage and promotes healing of existing damage.
In modern Chinese medicine, schisandra is used to astringe excess fluid making it helpful for frequent urination and even diarrhea.
Schisandra prevents immune depletion caused by stress. People with acute and chronic stress are more likely to catch colds or the flu and to develop immune deficiencies such as cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome.
In Japan it is known as gomishi and in Korea it is called omija. In these medicine traditions schisandra is used for coughs and wheezing, people with excess phlegm, and lung weakness.
Schisandra is a mild central nervous system stimulant yet is also calming. Schisandra helps relieve anxiety, stress-induced asthma, and heart palpitations.
Schisandra normalizes female and male glandular function. It can also be used with astragalus to help control night sweats and menopausal sweating. It is an adaptogen that supports the adrenal function and enhances reflexes, work performance, and mental activity. It helps the body to respond to stress and then recover from it in an effective manner.
Dosage and Safety
Deciding on the best dosage and form of schisandra depends on each person’s unique personality and health conditions. As an herbalist, I spend time getting to know the individual and assessing the health goals they have before deciding on the best form of a natural remedy to use. If you want to try schisandra on your own, see the safe dosages below.
Tincture: 40-80 drops, three times a day
Capsules: One to two capsules (400-500mg each), two to three times a day
Decoction: Make a tea by adding 1-2 teaspoons of dried berries to 8-10oz of water. Gently simmer for 5-10 minutes and then remove from heat to steep for 20-30 minutes more. Strain and cool. Drink 4oz 2-3 times a day.
Safety Issues: Should not be taken during times of acute viral or bacterial infections such as colds, flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Herb/Drug Interactions: May increase effects of barbiturate medications. May prevent liver damage that can be caused by hepatotoxic medications such as acetaminophen and tetracycline.
I would love to hear about your experiences with schisandra or even your questions. Please leave a comment or question below.
Are you dealing with a chronic illness that you would like help with? Contact me to schedule a consultation.
- Winston, S. Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief; Healing Arts Press 2007
- Tiglner Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth; Wise Acres