Possibly my personal, all-time favourite tonic, Schizandra is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It is an excellent tonic and restorative, helping in stressful times and increasing zest for life. Low doses of the fruit are said to stimulate the central nervous system while large doses depress it. The fruit also regulates the cardiovascular system. It is taken internally in the treatment of dry coughs, asthma, night sweats, urinary disorders, involuntary ejaculation, chronic diarrhoea, palpitations, insomnia, poor memory, hyperacidity, hepatitis and diabetes.
Schisandra is known to stimulate the nervous system, increasing the speed of reflex nervous responses and improving mental clarity. In China, schizandra berries have traditionally been prescribed to treat mental illnesses such as neuroses. It may be a useful clinical agent for reversal of CNS depression. The berries are also given to improve concentration and coordination and are a traditional remedy for forgetfulness and irritability. Schisandra’s effectiveness for treating these problems has now been borne out by research.
Research has shown that in common with ginseng, schizandra has adaptogenic properties, helping the body to adapt to stress. Schisandra is a superior tonic herb and acts throughout the body, strengthening and toning many different organs.Probably best known as a sexual tonic for both men and women, schizandra reputedly increases the secretion of sexual fluids and, in men, it also improves sexual stamina.
Wu Wei Zi (Chinese); Tyosen-Gomisi, schizandra
Schisandra was first mentioned in Chinese medical texts during the later Han dynasty (AD 25-220). Different schizandra is used in northern and southern China; these were first, differentiated in 1596 by Li Shi Zhen in his Compendium of Materia Medica. S chinensis is used by both men and women as a tonic for sexual energy and is popular with women because of its reputation for improving the complexion.
Classed as an adaptogen, Schizandra has a long history of folkloric use in China and Tibet and more recent folk applications in Russia. Throughout the ages, various groups of people have enjoyed the benefits of Schizandra. For example, in Northern China, there lives a hunting tribe known as the Nanajas. Their hunting lifestyle means that they often set out on long and exhausting hunting trips under harsh conditions. But they always take along dried Schizandra fruit. A handful of the small red berries gives them the strength to hunt all day without eating.
This fruit helped Russian pilots to withstand the lack of oxygen in their flights during the forties. In more recent years Schizandra has contributed to the success of the Swedish skiing team. In Russia, Schizandra is a registered medicine for vision difficulties, i.e. short-sightedness and astigmatism.
Prefers a rich well-drained moisture retentive soil. Prefers a slightly acid soil but tolerates some alkalinity if plenty of organic matter is added to the soil. Requires some protection from the most intense sunlight. Plants succeed in quite deep shade and are suitable for north-facing walls. Plants are intolerant of drought. The fully dormant plant is hardy to about 3°F, though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. Plants climb by twining around supports. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorous, silicon, sesquicarene, lignans (schizandrin, gomisin), schizoandrol, essential oils, phytosterols (stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol), mucilage, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid
Schizandra berries can be eaten and are generally juiced. They are also sometimes added to wine.
adaptogenic, nervine tonic
Flavour: bitter, pungent, sweet, sour, salty
Hepatoprotective, antioxidant, antitussive, oxytocic, mild antidepressant
Allergy, altitude sickness, anxiety, asthma, cerebral ataxia, chemotherapy and radiation side effects, cirrhosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cough (chronic), depression, diabetes, diarrhea (chronic), dizziness, eczema, exhaustion, headache, hearing loss, heart palpitations, hepatitis, HIV, hives, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), infertility (male and female), insomnia, irritability, low libido, low sperm count, lung weakness (shortness of breath, hypoxia, wheezing, susceptibility to respiratory infection), memory loss, Meniere’s disease, nephritis, neuralgia, neurasthenia, neuroses, night sweats, nocturnal emissions, Parkinson’s disease, polyuria, premature aging, premature ejaculation, post-traumatic stress disorder, spermatorrhea, stress, tuberculosis, ulcers, vision problems (astigmatism, short-sightedness), and wasting diseases. It also can facilitate athletic recovery and improve sexual stamina.
Schisandra is now a recognised adaptogen a substance capable of increasing the body’s resistance to disease and stress. As such, it is said to balance body functions, improve mental function, increase stamina and physical performance, normalise blood sugar and blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol, improve the health of the adrenal glands, and energise RNA and DNA molecules to rebuild cells. Schisandra is also one of the most useful herbs from the herbal traditions of Asia for the treatment of liver diseases. Because it stimulates the central nervous system to maintain breathing, schizandra is useful as an antidote to morphine overdose. It also increases visual acuity and field of vision, as well as tactile sensitivity. Benefits of schizandra for specific health conditions include the following:
- Fluid imbalance. Because of its kidney tonic effect, schizandra is useful in treating thirst, night sweats, excessive sweating, urinary incontinence, and the frequent urge to urinate.
- Circulatory disorders. Schisandra may be used to treat poor circulation and poor heart function.
- Intestinal disease. Schisandra has been used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery.
- Fatigue. Schisandra may help to reduce fatigue, improve endurance, improve work performance, and build strength. It is recommended for persons who need high levels of energy, such as athletes.
- Liver disease. Schisandra is used to treat hepatitis and poor liver function. In one clinical study, schizandra successfully treated 76% of the patients with hepatitis. It has been shown to improve both virally and chemically induced hepatitis. More recently, schizandra has been found to protect the liver against the side effects of anti-Alzheimer’s medications.
- Mental and emotional illness. Schisandra has been shown to improve mental clarity, concentration, and coordination. It reduces forgetfulness, irritability, and nervous exhaustion. Schisandra is used to treat stress and may be part of a useful treatment for depression.
- Respiratory disease and disorder. Schisandra is used to treat allergies. It treats respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, chronic cough, and wheezing.
- Sensory organ failure. Schisandra has been used to help improve failing sight and hearing. It enhances the sensation of touch.
- Sexual disorder. Schisandra tones the sexual organs of both men and women. It increases the production of sexual fluids, improves male sexual stamina, and treats premature ejaculation and low sex drive.
- Skin rash. Schisandra has been used to treat skin conditions, including hives and eczema.
- Sleep disorder. Because of its adaptogenic properties, schizandra can relieve insomnia and dream- disrupted sleep.
- Other. Schisandra counteracts respiratory paralysis caused by morphine overdose and strengthens uterine contractions to promote healthy labour and childbirth.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
Dried Berries: 1,000 – 10,000mg
Dried Berry Tea: 1 tsp in 1 cup 3 x daily
Tincture: 3.5 – 8.5mL (1:2)
Hypertension patients should not use Schizandra.
Peptic Ulcers patients should not use Schizandra.
Epilepsy patients should not use Schizandra.
Schizandra should never be consumed during Pregnancy (except under close professional supervision during labour when Schizandra is occasionally employed to promote uterine contractions).
Side effects involving schizandra are uncommon but may include abdominal upset, decreased appetite, and skin rash
Interactions with other drugs
Schisandra may modestly induce the metabolism of warfarin and significantly increase the absorption of tacrolimus, but it appears to have little effect on the metabolism of nifedipine.
Bone, Kerry. A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs: Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone, 2003
Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.
Herbalpedia 2013 (CD-ROM)
Krapp, Kristine M. and Jacqueline L. Longe. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. 4 vols. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001.
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