Schisandra benefits: Uses, Facts, Studies, and Supplements

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

IN BRIEF

Schisandra has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years to reduce anxiety.

Schisandra Chinensis is a plant native to forests in Northern China and found in parts of Russia.

People call the fruit of Five-Flavor-Fruit or Magnolia Berries. It’s called “five-flavor” because it has a curious blend of five different tastes; sour, pungent, bitter, sweet, and salty.

The fruit has been used in numerous formulas in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for literally thousands of years.  Traditional Chinese healers know that the compounds in Schisandra contain many robust health and wellness properties.

Schisandra Magnolia Berries
Schisandra Chinensis

In TCM, practitioners believe the fruit has a positive impact on a person’s “qi.” Which helps restore the balance of life force or energy flowing throughout the body and improving general health.

In the western world, there is a growing body of evidence to back up the positive wellness and health applications of this fruit.

Benefits of Taking Schisandra 

Schisandra is an adaptogen, meaning it’s useful in helping a person manage his or her stress responses and adapt to one’s surroundings. 

It’s also known to contain compounds that help increase energy, physical endurance, physical performance, and a person’s resistance to diseases.

Here is a more detailed look at some of the specific health and wellness benefits of taking Schisandra:

Reducing Stress

compounds known to help counteract the adverse effects of stress.

They do this by supporting adrenal glands and their function, thus Moderating the release of stress hormones in the body and helping to heal adrenal fatigue.

There have been numerous controlled studies showing that adaptogens both decrease sensitivity to stressors, and provide a prolonged phase of resistance.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska 

By reducing or better regulating the release of stress hormones, a person can also access more energy and strengthen their immune system to fight off diseases.

Some of the health benefits of adaptogenic herbs include:
  • Improved blood sugar levels
  • Increase in natural energy
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Treating headaches and flu symptoms
  • Improved mental performance
  • Stimulating the central nervous system

As you can see, adaptogens offer a wide range of positive benefits.  If you’re interested in investigating more adaptogens, look into Tulsi, Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Reishi, and Rhodiola, to mention a few.

Lowering Anxiety

Generally speaking, stress is how a person feels and responds to an external cause. Anxiety is a person’s reaction to that stress.

The symptoms are similar, as are the physiological triggers. Therefore, Schisandra, along with other adaptogens are effective at helping reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

This can mean social anxiety, specific phobias, panic attacks, and so on. Everyone will experience varying results, but it’s recommended for any form of anxiety or mood disorder.

Beating Fatigue

TCM healers have used Schisandra to help countless patients increase their natural energy levels to combat fatigue.

A study carried out in 2009 backs up these claims. Several patients received Schisandra in an attempt to measure its effects in various ways.

The results showed people taking Schisandra had “enhanced mental and physical performance and, possibly, increased longevity.”

Antidepressant Effects

There hasn’t been a lot of clinical trials or studies carried out on a controlled group of humans. However, many studies on lab mice tested the effects of Schisandra on the symptoms of depression.

Scientists noted behavioral and biochemical changes with antidepressant-like effects. 

Liver Disease

Schisandra contains compounds that are known to improve liver function and help prevent liver disease.

This is mostly due to two flavonoids called quercetin and hesperetin. They function as antioxidants and help the body flush free radicals that are often responsible for liver damage.

Respiratory Disorders

Another controlled test carried out on mice showed that chemicals in Schisandra helped treat a range of respiratory disorders.

Compounds found in the berries of the plant actively inhibited the antibodies that cause allergies and flare-ups. This can prove helpful to patients who have asthma in particular as it can relieve the symptoms.

Menopause

In Korean medicine, they use Schisandra to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with menopause.

Healers claim it can help reduce hot flashes, heart palpitations, and sweating. These are some of the more uncomfortable symptoms for women experiencing menopause. Most traditional medicines fail to relieve these symptoms.

Sleep

Schisandra has been used for insomnia for “dream-disturbed sleep” traditionally.  It has been known to lower symptoms related to anxiety, to calm and uplift the spirit and to soothe the nerves.

It does this because it contains a compound called Gomisin N. Studies have shown this compound produces sedative and hypnotic bioactivity. This means the user will experience a deeper state of sleep, benefiting from all the positive health and wellness benefits that come with a good night’s sleep.

How to Take Schisandra

You can find Schisandra’s bioactive compounds in the berries of the plant. You can find it available in the form of dried berries, crushed powder, prepared as a pill, or in liquid form with Schisandra fruit extract.

Supplements will typically come with a recommended dosage and instructions for use. If you’re buying the berries, you can simply eat them like fruit. You should always consult with a medical professional as to how much you should take, though.

It’s not a legal requirement, however. If you’re buying it in supplement form, the best advice is to check into products for quality and purity before buying them.

Possible Side Effects

When taken within the recommended dosage given by a healthcare practitioner, there are very few known side effects of taking Schisandra.

Patients taking high doses have reported (higher doses than are found in Be Serene or most common formulations)

  • Upset stomach
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Heartburn
  • Itching

In Summary

Schisandra has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Evidence does suggest it can help some people with the health conditions covered above, although we need more controlled trials at this point.

Before taking any herbal remedies or alternative medicines, you should always speak with a healthcare professional and act according to medical advice.

Eager to learn more about Schisandra and other naturally healing plants? Read more on the Be Serene blog.

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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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