Perhaps you, like so many others, have heard the term “schisandra” being thrown around in the news recently. Touted for being an all-powerful herb with vast array of health benefits, schisandra is a super herb with a vast array of benefits that may indeed be just as intricate as the name itself. (Can you say “schisandra” three times fast?)
Pronunciation aside, schisandra itself is simpler than you might think! This herb is technically a berry, which blossoms from the Schisandra chinensis plant. The plant is indigenous to both China and Russia, and as such, the schisandra berry has held its own as an integral part of Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. You might also hear schisandra commonly referred to as the “Five Flavor Berry” since its flavor profile is robustly comprised of all five taste sensations: sweet, salty, sour, spicy and bitter. Imagine that! But schisandra has captured our attention not because of its appeal to our taste buds, but because of its far reaching health benefits as an adaptogenic herb.
SCHISANDRA BERRY HEALTH BENEFITS
Schisandra is a powerful adaptogen
Say what? Yes, schisandra is an adaptogen. This term refers to a specific class of herbs and natural substances with several health benefits that positively affect the adrenal glands and mediate the stress response in the body. Adaptogens are demonstrated to be safe for clinical use in humans and confer no risk for overdose or toxicity. Though they have been used for a multitude of health benefits and for the treatment of physiological and psychological conditions, most notably adaptogens have generally been used to improve stress levels and combat fatigue. We’re talking both physical and mental stress, so yes, it’s a double whammy in our book. Adaptogenic herbs work their magic by strengthening the endocrine system (that’s the one that is responsible for hormone secretion) and thereby naturally balancing out stress hormones in the body.
It is no surprise, then, that the schisandra berry was historically used in athletes to help them contend with a myriad of physical stressors. But let’s fast forward again to the present. In this day and age, we don’t need to be a professional athlete to benefit from stress reduction. In fact, when it comes to lowering our stress levels via natural means, most of us would likely jump and say “sign me up!” Enter, schisandra, which additionally has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits on the body. At this point you might be wondering what on earth this herb can’t do. Now let’s deep dive into the top 11 reasons we should all consider getting on board with schisandra supplementation.
Health Benefit 1: Anti-stress and Stress Management
Historically, adaptogenic herbs like schisandra have been used for stress management, primarily because this class of herbs demonstrates positive health effects on the adrenal system. The adrenal glands are responsible for the production of stress hormones and stress-response mediators like cortisol. By squelching excessive production and secretion of molecular chaperones, cortisol and nitric oxide, schisandra aids in stabilizing the levels of these stress-associated compounds in the blood. In turn, this keeps the negative effects of stress (i.e., fatigue, mental fogginess, low energy levels etc.) at bay. Incorporating schisandra into your daily supplement routine thereby helps both the body and the mind deal with a variety of external environmental stressors, pressures, and toxins in the following ways:
Health Benefit 2: Boosts Energy
Imagine a situation in which a state of calmness and relaxation actually leads to enhanced energy. Here you have it! Due to the way in which schisandra mediates the stress response, it simultaneously frees up the body’s resources to optimize energy metabolism. This is one of the reasons why schisandra and other adaptogenic herbs have been successfully used in endurance athletes. Molecularly speaking, the body’s “energy currency” is a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). In situations of stress, the increase in levels of nitric oxide correspond to decreased levels of ATP synthesis. Throw an adaptogen like schisandra into the mix, and the stress response plummets, allowing the body instead to focus on things like ATP production. This has specifically been studied in brain cells, suggesting that schisandra’s health benefits may aid in fending off neurodegenerative diseases, supporting longevity, and promoting overall brain health.
Health Benefit 3: Fights Fatigue/Enhances Mental Clarity
Quite possibly one of the most touted health benefits of schisandra is its ability to fight fatigue— both mental and physical. Its ability to diminish the detrimental effects of the stress response (i.e., weakness and lethargy) in turn helps to promote mental clarity. This is yet another reason why endurance athletes have historically used schisandra supplementation for performance enhancement. Additionally, studies in rats have suggested that schisandra may even be effective at treating memory impairment. Schisandra improves focus, attention span, and even coordination, making it a compelling supplement for athletes, students, surgeons, artists… and the rest of us too!
Health Benefit 4: Anti-Anxiety: Helps Improve Mood & Sleep
By significantly downplaying the stress response, another important health benefit of schisandra is that it helps to curb feelings of anxiousness and even improve mood. One study in mice demonstrated the effect of schisandra extract on mediating levels of powerful neurotransmitters including noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which play a role in the brain (particularly in conditions of stress). Schisandra’s positive effects on the brain have also implicated this powerful herb in the therapeutic prevention of a variety of psychological and neurological disorders, including depression and anxiety. As an added bonus, the calming effects of schisandra (on both the mind and body) can enhance sleep quality– in fact, in some cases it has been used as a sleep aid for those who suffer from sleep disorders. So perhaps it’s time to sit back and relax with schisandra.
Health Benefit 5: Improves Immunity
You’ve probably heard about the negative effects of stress on the immune system. So it should come as no surprise that schisandra, a stress-resolving superstar, has supremely beneficial effects on the immune system. Adaptogens like schisandra ward off the stress response so that the body’s immune resources are instead able to contend with pathogens, fight infections and keep us happy and healthy.
Schisandra is a Powerful Antioxidant
The schisandra berry itself is loaded with antioxidants, which are those powerful plant-based phytochemicals that sequester dangerous oxidative compounds in the body, known as free radicals. Left to their own devices, these highly reactive free radicals adversely affect cellular DNA and integral proteins, and thereby injure the body’s cells and tissues. When it comes to accelerated aging, cancer, and a variety of other common Western diseases, the buildup of free radicals is often the biggest culprit. When schisandra comes to the rescue, however, free radicals have fewer opportunities to accumulate in tissues and harm the body.
As an antioxidant, one of the health benefits of schisandra is that the bioactive component of this berry helps to protect against cell damage. Consequently, schisandra is responsible for a plethora of health-protective effects in the body, which include enhancing liver function, protecting against cancer, and impeding the aging process.
Convinced yet? To further elaborate on the vital role that antioxidants play, here are some examples of the specific antioxidant health benefits of schisandra:
Health Benefit 6: Cancer Prevention
Since schisandra hunts (and destroys) free radicals, it has the power to preferentially shield healthy cells from the DNA damage that accompanies carcinogenesis (aka, the growth of cancer cells). One of the ways it does this is by upregulating the production of glutathione (one of the body’s most powerful intracellular antioxidants) and the activity of glutathione reductase (the enzyme responsible for activating glutathione). Additionally, schisandra has been shown to improve the growth and proliferation of new, healthy cells. But when it comes to schisandra’s defensive properties against cancer, we can delve even deeper. Coupled with its defense of the body’s healthy, normal cells, schisandra also has the ability to eradicate deleterious cancer cells by stimulating apoptosis (aka, programmed cell death). Talk about a multi-pronged approach to battling cancer!
Health Benefit 7: Anti-Aging and Longevity
By curtailing the buildup of detrimental free radicals, schisandra provides a health benefit by specifically protecting skin cells from DNA injury. In other words, schisandra can act as a potent anti-aging agent by tackling wrinkles, sun-associated damage and age-related pigmentation. But the antioxidant power of schisandra doesn’t stop there when it comes to kicking cell damage to the curb. Free radical accumulation in the body accelerates aging across all systems in the body. Therefore, the protective effect of schisandra on cell integrity extends beyond the skin, into the body’s tissues. In this way, the antioxidant power of schisandra helps keep cells healthy, youthful, and positively radiant, both inside and out!
Health Benefit 8: Promotes a Healthy Liver
How could we have an antioxidant conversation without talking about detox? And how could we mention the word detox without bringing up the liver?! The answer is: we can’t. Given that a healthy liver is necessary to help rid the body of dangerous toxins, maintaining the integrity of the liver is absolutely essential. With its antioxidant capabilities, schisandra plays a showstopping role when it comes to improving liver health and function. Schisandra upregulates important enzymes involved in the detoxification of the liver itself, helps the body eliminate harmful waste, and has also been shown to protect against liver disease. So, if you’re looking to keep your liver in tip top shape, supplementing with schisandra might be just the ticket!
Schisandra is a potent anti-inflammatory
As if antioxidant power wasn’t enough, schisandra’s health benefits are further enhanced by another one of its other essential health-protective properties: its ability to fight inflammation. Free radical sequestration plays a role in curbing the body’s inflammatory response to certain environmental stressors. By helping to keep inflammation at bay, schisandra can work its natural magic on many of the body’s intricate– and fundamentally interrelated– systems.
While a healthy amount of inflammation is essential for keeping pathogenic bacteria at bay, long-term, excessive inflammatory responses mediated by an over-reactive immune system can wreak havoc on the body and can lead to a variety of disastrous health issues. Long-term inflammation has been associated with cancer, asthma, poor skin health and a multitude of other undesirable diseases and conditions. When we bring schisandra into the picture, we see it has the special ability to downregulate the production of inflammatory mediators (i.e., cytokines), thereby combating the detrimental impact these inflammatory processes would otherwise have on the body.
Health Benefit 9: Cancer Prevention Part 2
When it comes to fending off cancer, schisandra’s antioxidant vigor may appear to steal the show. But schisandra puts up a fierce competition with the powerful combination of both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory forces. Schisandra has been shown to keep the release of leukocytes (pro-inflammatory immune cells) in check, which in turn thwarts carcinogenesis. Additionally, special compounds called lignans have been isolated from the schisandra berry. Evidence exists in the literature suggesting that these unique compounds demonstrate suppressive effects on cancer cells in humans. So, for more reasons that one, we suspect schisandra is seriously worth a shot at helping to prevent cancer.
Health Benefit 10: Protects Skin (Promotes smooth and flawless skin)
Schisandra’s innate ability to fight inflammation potentially translates to a wide range of positive health benefits when it comes to skin health– and keeping our appearance smooth and flawless. The powerful herb’s anti-inflammatory effects help the body to hinder inflammatory processes such as those involved in the development of dermatitis and a variety of other inflammatory skin conditions). Inflammation is also to blame when it comes to allergic reactions, environmental stresses, and responses to toxins, all of which can negatively result in skin manifestations (think: redness, swelling, etc.); but schisandra can come to the rescue! Schisandra’s positive role in overall tissue repair also shines when it comes to the outer layers themselves. So, when push comes to shove, wave inflammation goodbye and welcome schisandra for salvaging your skin!
Health Benefit 11: Anti-Asthma
Some studies have also suggested the role that schisandra extract may play in calming asthma via antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Schisandra suppresses levels of inflammatory compounds (i.e., interleukins and interferons) implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma. Additionally, the herb works as a natural expectorant, which means it helps to pull mucus out of the lungs. Sign up for schisandra and breathe easier!
And a bit more…
If the aforementioned health benefits of schisandra aren’t enough, one of the additional reasons we love schisandra is that it truly is all natural. Though it is advised to take schisandra supplements as directed, we’d like to point out that schisandra has demonstrated very few side effects and confers no risk for toxicity. This is partly due to the fact that it is naturally occurring and not produced from a mess of chemicals in a factory. Unless you’re pregnant or allergic to schisandra, incorporating this super-berry into your cooking or daily supplement routine is unlikely to cause any adverse effects or health issues. Quite the opposite actually! Typical recommendations suggest one to three grams daily, which can be consumed in the form of a pill or powdered extract. It has become quite popular to create schisandra tonics using the powdered extract plus your choice of tea or hot water.
Attention if you are taking medications: Due to the fact that schisandra is processed in the liver along with other drugs and medications, it is important to talk to your doctor before beginning a schisandra regimen to discuss potential risks for drug interactions.
How to get more schisandra berry into your daily diet:
1. Try these recipes with schisandra:
2. Add Daily Turmeric Tonic to your recipes: This superfood adaptogenic blend combines the healing benefits of schisandra with other superfoods and adaptogenic herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and turmeric. Add a scoop to your recipes for an anti-oxidant and immune boost!
- Schisandra is a powerful adaptogen that helps reduce stress and manage stress
- Schisandra helps to boost energy
- Schisandra helps the body fight mental and physical fatigue, helping to promote mental clarity and enhance focus
- Schisandra helps to improve mood, reduce anxiety and promote sleep
- Adaptogens like schisandra help to boost the body’s immune system
- Schisandra is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps to protect against cell damage
- Schisandra provides protection against cancer by destroying free radicals and aiding the growth of new, healthy cells
- Schisandra provides powerful, anti-aging benefits by protecting skin cells and helping to keep skin cells healthy and youthful
- Schisandra plays an important role in promoting healthy liver function
- Schisandra provides strong anti-inflammatory benefits to the entire body
- The anti-inflammatory power in schisandra may help thwart carcinogenesis
- Schisandra’s anti-inflammatory benefits help to promote smooth and flawless skin
- Schisandra is a natural expectorant, helping to calm asthma
Want to read more?
- “Antiproliferative effects of dibenzocyclooctadiene lignans isolated from Schisandra chinensis in human cancer cells.” Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Pergamon, 28 Nov. 2007, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960894X07013923.
- Chen, Wai-Wei, et al. “Pharmacological studies on the anxiolytic effect of standardized Schisandra lignans extract on restraint-Stressed mice.” Phytomedicine, vol. 18, no. 13, 2011, pp. 1144–1147., doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2011.06.004.
- Chen, Xia, et al. “Antioxidant and anti-Inflammatory effects of Schisandra and Paeonia extracts in the treatment of asthma.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, vol. 8, no. 5, Apr. 2014, pp. 1479–1483., doi:10.3892/etm.2014.1948.
- Chiu, Hui‐Fang, et al. “Improvement of Liver Function in Humans Using a Mixture of Schisandra Fruit Extract and Sesamin.” Phytotherapy Research, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 21 May 2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.4702/abstract.
- Cohen, Joe. “Top 11 Scientific Health Benefits of Schisandra.” Selfhacked, 24 Oct. 2017, selfhacked.com/blog/schisandra/.
- Egashira, Nobuaki, et al. “Schizandrin reverses memory impairment in rats.” Phytotherapy Research, vol. 22, no. 1, 2007, pp. 49–52., doi:10.1002/ptr.2258.
- Government of Canada. National Research Council Canada. “Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill Fruit Through the Inactivation of Nuclear Factor-κB and Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases Signaling Pathways in Lipopolysaccharide-Stimulated Murine Macrophages.” Journal of Cancer Prevention, pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC4285959/
- Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Evidence-Based Efficacy of Adaptogens in Fatigue, and Molecular Mechanisms Related to their Stress-Protective Activity.” Current Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 4, no. 3, Jan. 2009, pp. 198–219., doi:10.2174/157488409789375311.
- Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals, vol. 3, no. 1, 2010, pp. 188–224., doi:10.3390/ph3010188.
- “Schisandra: Ultimate Superberry.” Schisandra: Ultimate Superberry | Medicine Hunter, www.medicinehunter.com/schisandra.
- Yan, Tingxu, et al. “The effect of Schisandra chinensis extracts on depression by noradrenergic, dopaminergic, GABAergic and glutamatergic systems in the forced swim test in mice.” Food & Function, vol. 7, no. 6, 2016, pp. 2811–2819., doi:10.1039/c6fo00328a.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.