When the Hound first heard “Schizandra Berry” I thought, “What’s that Halle’s very mixed-up cousin?” Well, no it’s not, but Schizandra Berry is one crazy herb for improving health!
This single herbal supplement can calm you down for a good nights sleep, and also wake you up and snap you to mental alertness, quicker and more completely than any cup of coffee the next morning! That is because Schizandra Berry is one of those herbs that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) refers to as “adaptogenic.” In TCM adaptogenic herbs are those that are not indicated to treat a specific ailment with a specific mechanism of action, but rather work to create balance from any direction that your body’s energy is off. So in other words, if you are stressed and over tired, an adaptogenic herb such as Schizandra can make you sleepy, if you are down and depressed, it can perk you up.
Schizandra (sometimes spelled Schisandra) has been used in TCM for over 2000 years as an adaptogenic tonic to improve mental health and alertness, boost libido, prevent aging, and beautify skin. Today, modern herbalists and naturopathic physicians are rediscovering its many health benefits. Schizandra is taken as a tonic, a food, and more recently in supplemental pill form. The Chinese name for the actual berry is Wu-wei-zi, or “five taste fruit” because it tastes salty, bitter, sweet, hot and sour -all at the same time! There is evidence that TCM practitioners have used Schizandra to treat everything from the common cold to liver disorders.
Whether in fruit, elixir, or pill form, the active ingredients of Schizandra are:
- Glutathione (GSH)
- Lignans – Sometimes described as a phytoestrogen, lignans are believed to have the power to improve liver function, protect the liver from damage, and to repair damaged liver cells
- Fitosterol and other powerful antioxidants
- Vitamin C and E.
How to Use Schizandra
In China, the Schizandra fruit is eaten directly for its many health benefits, and it is made into various adaptogenic tonics, but since even this hound’s tongue might have a little trouble with “five tastes” including bitter and hot, the most common way it is used is in a 500mg daily supplement. If you prefer the extract or fruit form, for improved liver function and for mental alertness, it is recommended you take from 2 -6 grams per day.
Who Should Use It?
Like Ginseng, and other adaptogenic herbs, anyone can really benefit from the stress relief, detoxification and anti-oxidative properties of Schizandra. Sniffing through the pages of Donald R. Yance Jr.’s Herbal Medicine Healing and Cancer, the Hound found many of Schizandra’s uses listed, from increasing mental and physical acuity to improving night vision. The book also says that Schizandra provides mental stimulation like caffeine, without the accompanying jitteriness. But most often Schizandra is used
for a “liver cleanse” and is indicated in the treatment of all liver dysfunctions, even hepatitis. According to Sheldon Saul Hendler MD, PhD, writing in the Vitamin and Mineral Encyclopedia, “Substances have been isolated from Schizandra which appear to have protective effects against liver toxins in mice. And there are reports that extracts of the herb are beneficial in the treatment of various liver disorders in experimental animals.”
Is Schizandra a miracle drug that can do all that the ancient Chinese herbalists say that it can? Maybe, maybe not, but there are studies that seem to bear out its improvement in liver function. According to WebMD, research has shown that Schizandra fruit extracts reduce blood levels of an enzyme called glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) in patients with hepatitis. Many who use it swear by its ability to improve mental clarity and memory. But for its proven antioxidant and energy boosting value alone, this hound thinks it is worth adding to your daily supplement regimen.
Schizandra is safe for most people, and has few contraindications, but of course, any drug or supplement can have some side effects. For some that don’t have the stomach of a Houndog, eating the fruit can cause heartburn, upset stomach, decreased appetite, and stomach pain. Some folks have reported allergic reactions including skin rash, and itching. The hound did turn up some reports that Schizandra might cause the uterus to contract, which could lead to miscarriage – so if you are with pups, I’d stay away from Schizandra. I found at least one warning that said that people with epilepsy or similar disorders should not take Schizandra because of its stimulating effect to the Central Nervous System.
The Bottom Line
For thousands of years women in China have used Schizandra to preserve their beauty and youth. Both men and women througout Asia swear by its effectiveness as an aphrodisiac. Schizandra has long been recognized as a powerful anti-ageing tonic, with the ability to increase stamina and mental acuity, and reduce fatigue and stress. Once available only to Chinese Emperors, you can now find this beneficial berry at any health food store, or by visiting www.
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