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Schisandra (wu-wei-zi)

What is schisandra? What is it used for?

Schisandra is a vine that grows in northeast China, Russia and Korea. The vine contains tiny, red berries, which are sun-dried and used medicinally. The berries’ tastes range from sweet and sour to salty and bitter, which help give the vine its Chinese name (wu wei zi, meaning "five taste fruit").

The major active ingredients in schisandra are compounds called lignans, which have been shown to protect the liver and stimulate the immune system. Traditionally, schisandra was used to combat coughs, night sweats, insomnia and physical exhaustion. Controlled studies in China have found that schisandra can help people with hepatitis; smaller studies suggest that schisandra may improve physical performance, increase strength, and reduce fatigue.

How much schisandra should I take?

Typical schisandra intake averages from 1.5 to 15 grams per day. For schisandra tinctures, many practitioners recommend 2-4 millileters three times per day.

What forms of schisandra are available?

Many specialty markets sell dried schisandra berries. Schisandra is also available in powder and tincture form.

What can happen if I take too much schisandra? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

While side-effects with schisandra are rare, they may include an upset stomach, decreased appetite, and skin rash. Schisandra may also impact the efficacy of acetaminophen. As with any other herbal product or supplement, make sure to consult with a health care practitioner before taking schisandra supplements.

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  • Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, pp. 146-52.
  • Hancke J, et al. Reduction of serum hepatic transaminases and CPK in sport horses with poor performance treated with a standardized schizandra chinensis fruit extract. Phytomedicine 1996;3:237-40.
  • Jung KY, Lee IS, Oh SR, et al. Lignans with platelet activating factor antagonist activity from schisandra chinensis baill. Phytomedicine 1997;4:229-31.
  • Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, pp. 469-72.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 10


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