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Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is an aromatic woody vine that is native to northern and northeastern China. It is predominately cultivated in the Chinese provinces of Jilin, Hebei, Heilongjiang, and Lianoning. Schisandra is also found in Russia and Korea.
The schisandra plant reaches a height of up to 25 ft (7.5 m) and has pink flowers. Schisandra fruit is fully ripened in the fall and appears as numerous spikes of tiny, bright red berries. The berries have sweet, sour, hot, salty and bitter tastes hence the Chinese name for schisandra, "Wu Wei Zi" (five-flavored herb). Other names for schisandra include schizandra, five-taste fruit, and herb of five tastes.
Schizandra chinensis (SC) is very powerful and carries its own variety of health and athletic benefits. Experimental results have shown that dried ripe fruit of schizandra chinensis, can inhibit the reductive metabolism of halothane in vitro. These results predict a possible protective mechanism of SC against halothane-induced hepatitis (iiaziang, Fujii, Sato & Yuge, 1993). Another study involved a 28-day observation of 95 men (ages 25-35 yrs) in a sanatorium. These men were complaining of exhaustion and weakness. Following the administration of schizandra, the vital capacity of the subjects increased by 19%, their muscular strength by 27%, and the level of hemoglobin in the blood by 6%. It was concluded that shizandra rapidly removes exhaustion and fatigue, and increases mental and physical work ability (Avery, 1995).
There is a large amount of research reporting an increase in physical work capacity due to administration of schizandra preparations from (1) a decrease in fatigue, (2) an acceleration of the recovery process following fatigue, (3) an increases in work quantity that can by performed, (4) an increase in strength, and (5) an increase in the exactness of movement during fatigue. It has been shown that the increase in muscular work capacity is connected to an increase in carbohydrate metabolism (Avery, 1995). The effect of schizandra on physical work capacity was studied on 140 male distance runners. All of the runners were living under the same conditions and eating similar foods. The runners were divided into three groups: a control group given glucose, a second group given the illegal stimulant phenamine, and a third group given schizandrin. As expected, most of the runners given phenamine (59%) ran their fastest times for 3,000-meters. However, an amazing 74% of the runners given the natural adaptogen schizandrin ran their best times for 3,000-meters. This was a 25% increase in improvement from the control group that was given a banned substance (Lebedev, 1971).
Schisandra fruit contains a wide variety of compounds with biological activities. Constituents of schisandra include:
Acids, lignans (deoxyschizandrin, gomisins, pregomisin, schizandrin, and others) phytosterols (beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol)
vitamins C and E, volatile oils.
Schisandra fruit contains at least 30 different lignans. Lignans, which are sometimes described as phytoestrogens (plant-derived compounds with estrogen-like activity), are known to have liver-protective (anti-hepatotoxic) action and to regenerate damaged liver tissue. In addition, lignans interfere with a compound called platelet activating factor, which promotes inflammation. The results of a study in rats showed that a lignan-enriched extract of Schisandra chinensis protected against liver damage from either aflatoxin (a toxin produced by a mold) or cadmium chloride (a toxic chemical). The liver-protective function is partly due to schisandra's antioxidant activity. However, treating the rats with vitamin E, an antioxidant, did not protect them from liver damage. This finding indicates that schisandra's liverprotective activity is not due to its vitamin E content. Schisandra increases liver function, which helps the body's metabolism become more efficient.
Research has shown that schisandra has adaptogenic properties, which means that it helps the body to fight disease and adapt to stresses from physical, mental, chemical, and environmental sources. Schisandra also has tonic (restoring tone to tissues), expectorant (promoting the clearing of lung mucus), and cough-suppressant (reducing coughing) activities. It stimulates the nervous system by increasing the speed of nervous responses, leading to quicker and stronger reflexes. Schisandra has been shown to stimulate breathing, lower blood pressure, act as a vasodilator (causing blood vessels to dilate), improve blood circulation, improve heart function, strengthen uterine contractions, improve vision, normalize blood sugar levels, and assist in food digestion and absorption of nutrients. It can activate all major body systems.
Schisandra is a Chinese tonic herb used in traditional Chinese medicine as a lung astringent and kidney tonic. Historically, it was used to treat mental illness, night sweats, coughs, thirst, insomnia, chronic dysentery (diarrhea containing blood and mucus), premature ejaculation, and physical exhaustion. The Chinese consider it an energy tonic that can be used to restore lost vitality. Schisandra can improve overall health and increase energy levels.
Schisandra is an overall tonic that is used to treat the following conditions:
Fluid imbalance. Because of its kidney tonic effect, schisandra 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 diarrhea 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, schisandra successfully treated 76% of the patients with hepatitis. It has been shown to improve both virally and chemically induced hepatitis. More recently, schisandra 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, schisandra can relieve insomnia and dream-disrupted sleep.
Other. Schisandra counteracts respiratory paralysis caused by morphine overdose, and strengthens uterine contractions to promote healthy labor and childbirth.
Schisandra is one of nine herbs combined in a Chinese dietary supplement called Equiguard, which is given to support the functioning of the kidneys and prostate gland in men. A recent study indicates that Equiguard may be helpful in treating prostate cancer because it appears to prevent the cancer cells from forming new colonies.
Only the fruit of schisandra is used for medicinal purposes. Schisandra berries are harvested when fully ripe and allowed to dry in the sun. Schisandra's dried fruit is used, and the herb is prepared in the form of powder, tincture (an alcoholic extract), and wine. It is also found, usually in combination with other herbs, in capsules, tea, and decoctions (a water extract). Schisandra may be found in Chinese herb shops or health food stores. Recommended doses of schisandra are 1.5�15 g of dried fruit daily, 2�4 ml of tincture three times daily, 1.5�6 g of powder daily, one to three cups of tea once daily, or 1.5 g in capsule form daily.
The decoction is prepared by boiling 5 g of crushed berries in 100 ml of water. This decoction is divided into three doses, which are taken over a 24-hour period. The tea is prepared by steeping 1�6 g of dried schisandra berries in one to three cups of boiling water.
For use as a general tonic in China, patients are advised to chew dried schisandra berries daily for 100 days. Skin conditions are usually treated with a medicinal wine formulation.
It may take several weeks for the energy-increasing effects of schisandra to be felt.
Schisandra should not be used during pregnancy or in patients who are having trouble urinating.
Schisandra is safe for long-term use; it has relatively few side effects. It has, however, been reported to cause upset stomach, heartburn, decreased appetite, and skin rash.
Schisandra interacts with acetaminophen in a positive way. In a laboratory study, gomisin A, a lignan found in schisandra, offered some degree of liver protection to rats given doses of acetaminophen high enough to cause liver damage.
Schisandra has been reported to increase the effects of antidiabetic medications and anesthetics; it should therefore be discontinued before major surgery. Schisandra should not be taken together with terfenadine (seldane) because it appears to increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia as a side effect of this medication.
Schisandra is often used in Chinese herbal formulas as a harmonizing agent because it complements and coordinates well with other herbs. Schisandra is often found in combination with Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng).
Berries from the plant (Schisandra chinensis) have been one of the primary medicinal agents of Chinese herbal medicine since antiquity. The first recorded use of schisandra is found in China's earliest text of herbal medicine, the Divine Husbandman's Classic of the Materia Medica, which is believed to have originated in the first century B.C.1 In it, schisandra is said to "prolong the years of life without aging," and it is also said to increase energy (called "qi," pronounced "chee"), suppress cough, treat fatigue and act as a sexual tonic in men.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), schisandra berries have been used predominantly for the lungs and kidneys as an astringent tonic to arrest mucous discharges, alleviate spontaneous sweating and check urinary and reproductive secretions such as in urinary incontinence and spermatorrhea, an involuntary loss of semen.
Pharmacological research on schisandra has been conducted since the 1950s, when it was reported to exhibit central nervous system stimulatory activity, enhance mental and physical capacities and improve cardiovascular function. These studies, mostly conducted in the former Soviet Union, characterize schisandra as an adaptogen and resulted in its popular use as a tonic.
ADAPTOGENIC - Schisandra's traditional use as a tonifier in TCM led to research for this effect, predominantly in the former Soviet Union, where it was defined as an "adaptogen." Adaptogens are substances believed to reinforce the non-specific resistance of the body against physical, chemical, or biological stressors. Primarily, they are considered to enhance the body's general physiological adaptive responses. Schisandra is promoted for its stimulating effects on the nervous system without being excitatory like amphetamine or caffeine. It is suggested that the higher the degree of exhaustion the greater is the stimulating effect. Research also indicates that Schisandra stimulates the central nervous system, possibly by increasing dopamine and its metabolites in the striatum and hypothalamus.
ANTI-FATIGUE - Laboratory work suggests that Schisandra may improve work performance, build strength, and help to reduce fatigue. Preliminary studies suggest that schisandra or its extracts might increase stamina and speed and improve mental concentration. It stimulates the nervous system by increasing the speed of nervous responses, leading to quicker and stronger reflexes.
MENTAL FUNCTION - Uncontrolled trials indicate that Schisandra might increase mental efficiency in humans. Schisandrin (5-10 mg) improved concentration, fine co-ordination, sensitivity and endurance in healthy young male adults as assessed by needle threading, telegraphic reception/transmission and marathon running. Schisandra was also said to improve vision and hearing, enlarge the visual field, improve adaptation to the dark and increase the discrimination of skin receptors (the latter due to a CNS effect rather than at the skin receptors).
IMMUNE SUPPORTIVE - Research has reported that a lignan component of Schisandra fruit suppresses the arachidonic acid (AA) cascade in macrophages. The AA cascade pushes the production of leukotrienes, which may play a role in inflammatory diseases. By inhibiting this inflammatory response, Schisandra both protects the liver and stimulates the immune system - two key roles of an ideal adaptogen.
LIVER PROTECTIVE - The major active compounds in schisandra are lignans (schizandrin, deoxyschizandrin, gomisins, and pregomisin) found in the seeds of the fruit. Modern Chinese research suggests these lignans have a protective effect on the liver and an immuno-modulating effect. At least two human studies in China, one controlled and the other open, have shown that schisandra can help people with hepatitis. In China, crude schisandra berries, their preparations, and individual constituents are widely used for progressive hepatic degeneration due to viral hepatitis or chemical challenge--indications for which schisandra is well documented. Part of how schisandra lignans appear to protect the liver is by activating the enzymes in liver cells that produce glutathione, an important antioxidant substance. In the 1970s, trials in China on patients with hepatitis resulting from either viral infection or chemical exposure reported schisandra preparations lowered elevated levels of serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT), an enzyme found primarily in the liver that is released into the bloodstream as the result of liver damage. This research focused on the antihepatotoxic effects of lignans isolated from the unhydrolyzed fraction of the seed oil. At least 13 of these lignans have been reported to enhance the hepatic glutathione antioxidant system and have been reported to be beneficial in treating viral- and chemical-induced hepatitis and liver cancer.
In 1986, Chinese researchers reported more than 5,000 cases of various types of hepatitis have been treated with schisandra preparations, resulting in the reduction of elevated liver enzymes.7 According to researchers, elevated SGPT values returned to normal in 75 percent of patients treated after 20 days of taking an unspecified schisandra preparation. In subjects with elevated SGPT attributed to drug toxicity, SGPT levels returned to normal in 83 out of 86 cases after one to four weeks of treatment.
Other researchers reported the effect of schisandra on 59 airline flight attendants aged 22 29. The effects of nonstop seven- to nine-hour flights, as measured by several stress parameters, were evaluated before and after the flights with and without treatment with 0.5 g schisandra extract. Control subjects displayed an increase in heart rate from 76 beats per minute (bpm) to 88 bpm and blood pressure from 112 to 119, while those administered the schisandra preparation exhibited no changes.12
Schisandra appears to be free of toxicity when administered orally within its recommended dosage range. Individuals with high gastric acidity or peptic ulcers may experience increased acidity.13 Those with abnormally high intracranial pressure or with epilepsy should avoid use.14 Based on the limited information available, schisandra should be avoided or used with caution by pregnant women.13,15
In one mouse study, the lignan schizandrol A was reported to significantly prolong sedative-induced sleeping times, enhance the sedative effects of drugs, and antagonize the stimulatory effects of amphetamines and caffeine on spontaneous motor activity.8
In the United States, schisandra is popularly used as a general tonic for decreasing fatigue, enhancing physical performance, and promoting endurance due to its effects and reputation as an adaptogen. In China it is widely used for various liver conditions. Among TCM practitioners, it is similarly used as a tonic and is also prescribed according to the principles of TCM.
Vakuum package: 100g of fructus schizandrae