Schizandra (sometimes referred to as Chinese Magnolia Vine) is a genus of twining shrub that generally climbs on other vegetation.
Shisandra chinensis has been used in Chinese Medicine (also known as „wu wei zi” in Chinese, which translates as „five flavor fruit”, because the plant has all five basic flavors in Chinese herbal medicine: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter) for over 2000 years, as one of 50 „fundamental herbs”. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) uses it as a natural remedy to treat: skin problems, night sweats, infections, insomnia, coughing, female and male fertility disorders.
The plant reaches a height of up to 25 ft (7.5 m) and has pink flowers. The fruit is fully ripened in the fall and appears as many spikes of tiny, bright red berries. The berries have sweet, hot, sour, salty and bitter tastes.
Uses and health benefits of Schizandra Berry
Adaptogenic properties – not only do the adaptogenic herbs increase the resistance to the side effects of long-term stress, but the majority are also tonic, immune-stimulating, and increase the general sense of well-being. Though the effects may initially be subtle and take time to make a change, they’re real and undeniable. A
A study in 2007, by the Swedish Herbal Institute Research and Development Department, tested the effects of adaptogen herbs, including ginseng, rhodiola, and schisandra on blood levels of stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK/JNK), cortisol, nitric oxide (NO), testosterone, prostaglandin, thromboxane and leukotriene in rats. The scientists concluded that over a week, when rats were given supplementation of adaptogens herbs, they experienced near-steady levels of cortisol, despite increased amounts of stress.
Dietary lignans – up to 19% of the fruit’s weight consists of 30 different lignans, which are compounds that form the building blocks of plant cell walls. The lignans contain phytoestrogens that help regulate the body’s estrogen production. When we eat plant foods, these compounds are converted in our intestines by good bacteria to produce a form that the body can assimilate.
Antioxidant activity – the plant provides powerful antioxidant protection, especially from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage.
Cancer protection – a study in October 2009 conducted by the Dongeui University, examined the anti-cancer effects of two phytochemicals – schisandrin C and schisandrin, both found in this plant, in human leukemia cells. In this study, schisandrin C prevented the growth of cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner, while schisandrin was unable to do the same. These conclusions led scientists to conclude that the phytochemical schisandrin C may serve as a promising anti-cancer agent.
Prostate cancer prevention – Chinese Magnolia Vine is one of the 9 herbs combined in a Chinese dietary supplement called Equiguard, which is given to support the functioning of the prostate gland and kidneys in men. A
A study conducted in 2002 by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology indicates that Equiguard may be beneficial in treating prostate cancer because it appears to significantly reduce the growth of cancer cells, induce apoptosis, lower intracellular and secrete prostate specific antigen (PSA), suppress expression of the androgen receptor (AR), and almost completely abolish colony forming abilities of prostate cancer cells.
Digestion – the plant is a cholagogue, which is an action that has the specific effect of stimulating the flow of bile from the liver. Bile aids the digestion, breakdown, absorption and distribution of nutrients by the digestive system, especially fats and fat-soluble vitamins. By stimulating bile flow, digestion is improved and the body can then correctly utilize nutrients offered by foods, supplements, and herbs. The building blocks for everything in our bodies come from the foods we eat. Having a healthy digestive system, one that can get the most nutrition from the foods it consumes is a first step towards improving our general health.
Healthy skin – wu wei zi is a natural beauty tonic that’s capable of protecting the skin from sun exposure, wind, dermatitis, allergic reactions, environmental stress and toxin accumulation. While more formal research on the beneficial effects of this plant on the skin’s health are needed, one 2015 research by Pusan National University School of Korean Medicine using rats found that extracts from this plant inhibits ear swelling by lowering skin dermatitis, cytokine production, and immune cell filtration, which are all markers of inflammatory skin disorders in humans.
Liver – it is used to treat hepatitis and poor liver function. In one clinical study, it successfully treated 76 percent of the patients with hepatitis. It has been shown to improve both chemically and virally induced hepatitis. More recently, the plant has been found to protect the liver against the side effects of anti-Alzheimer’s medications.
Endurance – studies have demonstrated the adaptogenic effects of this plant. For example, in sports medicine, one of the important adaptogenic effects is an accelerated recovery time – biochemically and physically. When it was given to thoroughbred horses in a single dose of 12 grams, 30 minutes before race time and exercise, the herb produced a significant effect in reducing the respiratory and cardiac frequency, and the accumulation of lactate in horses, contributing to a faster recovery time.
Sexual function – it is essentially a “superfood for the sex organs” and has been considered one of the most powerful sexual tonics appreciated by herbalists around the world. Both women and men can use it as an aphrodisiac, to improve sexual experiences. In men especially, it is considered to increase sexual stamina and endurance. In addition, it is beneficial for men experiencing spermatorrhea (involuntary ejaculation) and premature ejaculation.
Anti-inflammatory effects – it contains compounds that may help fight inflammation, according to a test-tube study published in 2014. Scientists found that the plant extract helped curb the production of inflammatory cytokines (molecules that are different from hormone and can contribute to the onset of chronic disease when overactivated).
Mental health – known to increase „brain power”, it stimulates the central nervous system giving your brain a renewed sense of focus. Further, the herb can increase your energy by stimulating the central nervous system without making you nervous like caffeine would.
It has been used to help adults suffering from ADHD. Studies have shown that the herb increases memory and concentration. It has the ability to promote mental functioning and increase work productivity. This berry is also considered to reverse the effects of depression. A 2012 study conducted by the researchers from Department of Pharmacognosy, Shenyang Pharmaceutical University, China, has proven that it is a potential cognitive enhancer against Alzheimer’s disease through antioxidative action.
Schizandra berry tea recipe
Add 2-4 tablespoons of dried berries to a pot of boiling water. The pot should have enough water for 2 cups, initially. Reduce the heat and leave the berries in the hot water until the water that’s left is enough for only one cup (about 12 minutes). Strain and your tea is ready. You can add maple syrup and lemon.
Side effects of schizandra berry
It has, however, been reported to cause heartburn, upset stomach, decreased appetite and skin rash. It is best to avoid this herb if you are experiencing peptic ulcers, high blood pressure or epilepsy. The plant should not be used during pregnancy or in patients who are having trouble urinating.