Schisandra, also known as Schizandra or Schisandra chinensis, comes from a vine native to northern China and eastern Russia. Its berry is used in traditional Chinese medicine and sometimes referred to as the ‘five flavor berry’ because it supposedly encapsulates the five major flavours – sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy.
It is prized as an effective adaptogen, or mediator, to help support the body’s defences against disease. Schisandra helps the body to cope with added stressors during times when we may be susceptible to illness, and brings a sense of calm.
It’s an excellent tonic and immune booster against lurking winter illnesses, helping you to fight off infections and strengthen your immune system’s effectiveness in those times when you might get run down or when there’s a cold or flu going around. You’ll also enjoy other benefits, because schisandra not only protects your immune and respiratory systems, it’s also been shown to improve liver function, heart function and act as a mood booster.
Its main activity seems to be preventing physical and chemical stress on the body, and it is often used as both a mental and physical performance enhancer. When eaten, either as a supplementary extract, or in whole fruit form, its antioxidant compounds accumulate in the cells of the heart, brain, kidneys, lungs, and especially the liver tissues. A range of antioxidants in the Schisandra berry are thought to be the secret to its therapeutic and preventative properties.
Besides serving as a tonic and restorative, schisandra has other reported uses, such as liver protection, nervous system support, respiratory treatment, and gastrointestinal therapy. Its protective properties make Schisandra much more than just a cold remedy!
Traditional Chinese uses include treatment for depression, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease and chronic coughing, and these have been backed up by a considerable quantity of recent research. Its support of liver and adrenal function has recently attracted particular interest from researchers.
Can schisandra treat fatty liver disease?
A study published in 2016 explored the possibilities of schisandra in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It was able to inhibit the expression of stress markers in liver cells (endoplasmic reticulum, which are involved in protein and lipid synthesis and associated with fatty liver and other diseases), and inhibit triglyceride accumulation.
Researchers concluded that schisandra is effective in preventing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and may be useful in protecting against other diseases with similar stress markers.
Another study the previous year sought “to evaluate the antitussive, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects” of schisandra and its effectiveness in treating coughing and lung inflammation. An ethanol extract appeared to be the most effective method of administering schisandra for these respiratory problems.
Schisandra extract significantly reduced cough frequency, lung inflammation, abnormal increase in airway tissue cells, smooth muscle thickening, and inflammatory cells.
Schisandra contains four lignans (types of polyphenol): schizandrin, schisantherin A, deoxyschizandrin and γ-schisandrin, which the researchers thought to be responsible for these anti-inflammatory effects.
Enhances mood and brain function
Schisandra is quite widely acknowledged as having an anti-depressant effect. This has been explored in numerous studies demonstrating its anti-inflammatory effect on the brain, with relevance to various neurological issues from insomnia, to depression, to Alzheimer’s and improving cognitive performance and memory.