Schisandra: Tonic of the Ages
Schisandra: Tonic of the Ages
The herb schisandra, also spelled schizandra, has been gaining popularity for some time, mainly as an ingredient in adaptogenic or adrenal formulas. In these it is usually combined with other adaptogens such as rhodiola or ashwagandha. This herb’s properties go far beyond its use here (in which it shines). In this newsletter we will delve into the myriad benefits and properties of this legendary herb.
Schisandra chinensis is indigenous to China and Korea, with related species growing around the world in temperate climates. Its Chinese name, Wu Wei Zi, translates to “Fruit of Five Flavors’’ due to the fact that it possesses all five classical tastes (sour, bitter, sweet, salty, spicy/pungent). It is one of the most revered herbs in the Chinese herbal pharmacopeia (Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM) and has been used and written about since at least the second century A.D. Traditionally it has been considered to benefit the Kidney, Lung, and Liver meridians/functions. In TCM it is indicated for tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes, insomnia, and low energy, among other conditions. Extensive research has been done on schisandra in Asia and Russia, and a summary of pharmacological actions follows: non-mutagenic, liver protective, antidepressant, DNA stimulation, antioxidant, anti-toxic, anti-fatigue, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-allergenic, anti-stress, resistance stimulation, antitussive/expectorant.
Schisandra has profound liver supportive properties, surpassing even the classically regarded herbal liver champion, milk thistle. In that herb, the lignan compounds are responsible for its liver protection qualities. Schisandra contains a markedly higher percentage of lignan compounds than milk thistle. It may be said to both strengthen and protect the liver. Like milk thistle, it increases levels of glutathione in the liver, thereby protecting the organ from toxins. In addition, schisandra boosts both Phase I liver detoxification and Phase II clearance of activated toxins. It can reduce elevated enzymes in patients with chronic hepatitis, proving just how effective its liver support is. It has been shown in many studies to protect the liver from damage caused by carbon tetrachloride and other highly liver-toxic compounds. Parameters of damage, such as cell necrosis, fatty degeneration, inflammatory cell infiltration, and elevated enzymes were all reduced in schisandra-treated livers.
Mental/Physical Performance & Adaptogenic
The Russians have been studying schisandra since the 1950s for its role in increasing mental and physical performance, with the conclusion that it can increase human endurance. It can sharpen concentration, improve memory, and increase alertness, all without producing nervousness. Tests in humans showed schisandra to improve activities requiring concentration, fine coordination, sensitivity, and endurance. Tests ranged in activities from threading a needle to running marathons. In addition to increasing physical work capacity, schisandra offers a stress-protective effect against a broad range of harmful factors including heat shock, skin burns, cooling/frostbite, irradiation, and heavy metal toxicity.
Schisandra has been shown to exert expectorant activity as well as alleviating chronic dry cough and wheezing. It also stimulates respiration. With regard to eye health, it has been shown to improve sensitivity of sight (and hearing), increase the speed of adaptation to the dark, and enlarge the visual field.
What We Have For You
Evergreen Nutrition carries this tonic herb in capsule and liquid form. Herb Pharm has a gluten-free 1 oz. extract of certified organic schisandra berry. Nature’s Way and Solaray both offer encapsulated schisandra products.
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