What are the Medical Uses of Schisandra Chinensis?

Deborah Walker

Schisandra chinensis is a woody vine in the Schisandraceae family. This vine is native to northeastern China, Russia, and Korea. As one of the 50 most important herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Schisandra chinensis is medically used as a general adaptogen, as a kidney and lung tonic, as well as for night sweats, insomnia, and physical exhaustion. Clinical studies have largely borne out the claims made about this herb. Side effects are uncommon.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Schisandra chinensis is one of the 50 fundamental medicinal herbs.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Schisandra chinensis is one of the 50 fundamental medicinal herbs.

Schisandra chinensis is also known as wu-wei-zi, bei wu wei zi, northern five-flavor berry, and five-taste fruit. This herb is believed to increase mental and physical performance and endurance, improve vision and hearing, and decrease eye fatigue in situations where visual focus is required for extended periods of time. It is also said to help the body to cope with cold, heat, noise, and overwhelming emotions, among others. Schisandra chinensis may be given to improve circulation and as an aphrodisiac.

Schisandra chinensis may help protect against the harmful effects of frostbite.
Schisandra chinensis may help protect against the harmful effects of frostbite.

Clinical studies have shown that the essential oils, acids, and lignans in Schisandra chinensis may be useful in regenerating tissue in the liver that has been damaged by cirrhosis or viral hepatitis. Further, the dibenzo-cyclo-octadiene lignans may protect against excitotoxin-induced neuronal damage in the brain. This herb has also proven effective as an anti-bacterial in certain cases of lung disease.

Traditional healers have long used Schisandra chinensis as a liver and kidney cleanser.
Traditional healers have long used Schisandra chinensis as a liver and kidney cleanser.

Russian studies over the last 40 years have shown that this herb improves the ability to do physical work by altering the base levels of nitric oxide and cortisol in the blood. It may also protect against the harmful effects of frostbite, heat shock, irradiation, and heavy metal exposure. Schisandra chinensis research reveals that this herb may be helpful for depression, schizophrenia, and alcoholism. Allergic dermatitis and gastrointestinal disorders, particularly ulcers, may also be relieved using this herb.

The herb is available as a tincture, capsule, tablet, or in tea form. Dried whole berries can also be purchased. Sometimes it is sold in combination with other herbs, such as red raspberry leaf or burdock root. Commonly recommended dosages are 0.035 to 0.21 ounces (1-6 grams) of fruit per day or 0.40-0.81 teaspoons (2-4 milliliters) three times per day. Pregnant women should not take this herb.

Side effects are rare, but not unheard of. Some who take Schisandra chinensis may experience a skin rash, decreased appetite, or gastric upset. It may also react with other prescription medications. If one is thinking about taking this herb, consulting with a medical doctor first may be a good precaution.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), schisandra chinensis is sometimes used to treat mental and physical exhaustion.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), schisandra chinensis is sometimes used to treat mental and physical exhaustion.

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