I try not to play favourites with herbs.. they all have a unique “personality”.. their own blueprint that acts on the body in general, on individual biology, with various dis-ease patterns, and in conjunction with other herb formulas and combinations. They all have their place.
Some, however, have a greater scope of action.. an affinity with a wider range of imbalances, a deeply fortifying effect. Schisandra is one such herb.
In western herbal medicine, it is indicated for liver toxicity, damage or insufficiency, poor memory and concentration, nervous system disorders and depleted mental and physical endurance.
In Traditional Chinese medicine it used for a condition termed “Qi insufficiency”, which translates loosely as “energy deficiency”. Qi is the energy inherent in all living things.
Something akin to “the circulating life force”, a vital energy that flows through the body (and all things) at all times, Qi is “considered to be present in everything from physical objects such as your phone to immaterial aspects of the world like light, heat, and emotion.” 1 “When qi flows properly, all things are in harmony and function correctly; when qi is blocked, problems arise.
Within the human body, Qi flows through the organs maintaining health and balance. It is thought to provide the energy needed for our bodies to function, support body temperature, maintain the structure and strength of our organs, and keep our metabolism constant.” 2
According to a study in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Sciences, Qi deficiency markedly influences the aging process. Based on the findings, the five core symptoms of a Qi deficiency (in addition to one’s overall health status) are believed to be - fatigue, shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating, a swollen tongue (with teeth marks on the side) and a weak pulse. 3
Some of the other symptoms commonly noted include dry skin, muscle aches, weakness, poor memory, irritability and mood swings. Women may also experience irregular periods.
Its Chinese name (Wu Wei Zi) means "five flavoured berry" and refers also to its influence on the five visceral organs in the body and its beneficial effect on their Qi. One Journal published study found an ability of Schisandra berry to “fortify mitochondrial antioxidant status, thereby offering the body a generalized protection against noxious challenges both of internal and external origin. Given the indispensable role of the mitochondrion in generating cellular energy, the linking of Schisandra berry to the safeguarding of mitochondrial function provides a biochemical explanation for its "Qi-invigorating" action.” 4
Schisandra berry is also a great superherb for skin wellness and protection. Cherished by Chinese royalty for its beauty and anti-aging qualities, it is full of antioxidants, including key vitamins C and E, and its strong astringent qualities enable the skin to hold in moisture giving fullness and hydration. It may also protect against UVB induced skin damage.
Famed for its ability to preserve youth in both physiology and appearance, it has “shown efficacy through countless dynasties, wherein the skin is said to glow, becoming clearer and finer after one imbibes it consistently for several months.” 5
It has also demonstrated significant anticarcinogenic action. 6
I love to drink it simply mixed with warm water, it makes a tart tea.. however if you’re sensitive to the taste you can add your natural sweetener of choice, blend into smoothies or add to raw desserts (such as these raw Bliss Berry Cakes).
* It is important not to exceed the recommended dosage of Schisandra. (1-3gm per day).
* May not be appropriate for people with acidic conditions such as ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), or hyperchlorhydria. May also cause reduced appetite.
* Contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
* It is a very drying herb, so this must be taken into account before using, and as with all adaptogens, cycle with other herbs, or take a break (3 months on, 3 months off).
* As always, consult your healthcare practitioner if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
1 https://www.healthline.com/health/qi-deficiency 2 Tzu Chi Medical Journal, Volume 24, Issue
2, June 2012, Pages 92-95 “An Oriental Understanding of Health” Michael Cheng-TekTai https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1016319012000122 3 Journal of Traditional Chinese Sciences, Volume 2, Issue
3, July 2015, Pages 173-182 “Symptom characteristics and prevalence of qi deficiency syndrome in people of varied health status and ages: A multicenter cross-sectional study” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754816000181#bib38
4 PubMed “Biochemical basis of the "Qi-invigorating" action of Schisandra berry (wu-wei-zi) in Chinese medicine.” Ko KM1, Chiu PY. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16552829 5 https://www.lneonline.com/schizandra-berry/
6 PubMed “Panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea and Schisandra chinensis.” Chan SW https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22039930