Benefits of Schisandra Supplements – When to Use

schisandra flower

Schisandra, or Wu Wei Zi (five flavored berry) in Chinese Medicine, is a bright red fruit that grows on vines in Japan, Korea, North-East China, and parts of Russia. As advertised, the berry tastes like all five flavor sensations – sour, salty, bitter, sweet and spicy.

In the first century classic herbal compendium, Divine Husbandmans Classic of the Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing), schisandra is described as a superior medicine that can “prolong the years of life without aging”.

Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, modern natural medicine has a very small evidence-base for the use of schisandra. It has not been studied in humans and there are no clinical trials currently available.

That said, it has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese and Korean medicine traditions and has been adopted by western herbal medicine practitioners around the world with great results. The studies that have been done have shown that is has potent antioxidant potential, and powerful effects on key body systems:

Top 5 Schisandra Supplemental Benefits

Schisandra for Cardiovascular Health

Experimental research has delved into the traditional use of schisandra – treating cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension and myocardial infarction. Specific components of the herb called lignans have been extracted and found to have specific actions that support and protect cardiovascular health.

Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) give blood vessels their structural integrity and regulate the diameter of the vessel in response to chemical messages from other parts of the body. Dysfunction of VSMCs is commonly found in cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), where the vessels are squeezed too tightly by VSMCs and the blood requires greater pressure to push through the tight space. Schisandra extract has been shown to stimulate the VSMCs to relax rather than contract, allowing more blood to flow through the vessels [7]. Specifically, animal studies have shown that a lignan called “gomisin” promotes this relaxation of blood vessels [5], boosts levels of protective chemicals such as eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide) [6], and protects VSMCs against oxidative stress that could cause irregular contraction and relaxation [7].

Another constituent called “schisandrin B” has been shown to protect the heart by boosting glutathione levels and generating greater amounts of ATP in the myocardial tissue [4].

Schisandra has also been shown to:

  • Protect the heart and blood vessels against oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Regulate the death of used-up cells, and the repair of healthy cells in the heart
  • Reduce fibrosis of the blood vessels, maintaining their flexibility, contractility and responsiveness
  • Prevent clots by stopping platelets from clumping together [7]A recent human trial found that participants who took a daily dose of 130mg of schisandra extract per day for two weeks experienced a 9% improvement of blood flow and circulation [1]

Schisandra for Liver Health

Schisandra is a hepatoprotective herb – it protects the liver against damage from toxins and free radicals. Lignans such as “gomisin” can potentially boost detoxification pathways to speed up the metabolism of drugs, toxins, pollutants and nutrients through the liver. By increasing antioxidant glutathione levels, it can also boost protection for liver cells against oxidative damage.

Even better – it can help to accelerate the proliferation of new hepatic cells. The liver naturally regenerates itself, but after injury or during a heavy toxic load, the rate of regeneration slows down. Schisandra could reverse this process and boosts the rate of regeneration in liver tissue [8].

Clear liver detoxification pathways and happy hepatic cells are key to health and wellbeing. The liver controls vital processes such as weight accumulation, the synthesis of proteins and hormones, cholesterol packaging, nutrient metabolism, blood sugar regulation, and more.

CAUTION: Schisandra works on liver detoxification pathways by blocking and escalating certain enzymatic pathways. These pathways are responsible for the metabolism and sometimes activation of pharmaceutical and natural medicines. Speak to a qualified herbalist or integrative doctor for personalized advice before taking schisandra if you are taking any medications.

Schisandra for Stress

Schisandra is an adaptogen – a type of herb that helps the body to adapt to stress and the hormones, chemicals, and neurotransmitters that are released during times of increased demand. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, schisandra is prescribed to increase resistance to stressors. This kind of stress encompasses all kinds of demands on the body – mental, emotional, and even physical stress like over-training or illness.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, aka the HPA axis, is a sort of a control base of the acute stress response. The hypothalamus picks up stimulation from the rest of the body (e.g. seeing something scary) and stimulates the pituitary to release chemical messengers. These tell the adrenal glands to release stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol, which in turn activate the physical changes of a stress response. When the body is under chronic stress or regular bouts of acute stress, the HPA axis can fire too frequently, the adrenal glands can become over-stimulated and the body can get worn out. A 2009 animal study found that schisandra extract was able to protect the adrenal glands against over-active HPA signals, and help the rest of the body to remain alert but calm during times of stress [9].

Another animal study showed that schisandra may even have an anti-depressant effect in times of stress [11].

Schisandra for Fertility

The HPA axis described above branches off into another axis – the HPG or hypothalamic-pituitary-gonad axis. When the body is reacting poorly to stress, signals to the reproductive organs become skewed and fertility goes out the window. By helping the body cope with stress, schisandra can also improve fertility.

As a circulatory stimulant, schisandra can boost blood flow to the reproductive organs, supplying oxygen and nutrients, and supporting arousal [14]. Schisandra can helps to balance hormones by boosting the metabolism of used-up oestrogen and testosterone through the liver, and it also acts as a phytoestrogen [10]. Even more, it has been shown to have a high affinity for relaxing and nourishing the prostate, supports sperm and ovum production, and may protect the reproductive glands against tumours and cancer cells [12][13].

Schisandra for Athletes

As an adaptogen, schisandra can strengthen the immune system during times of intense training to prevent post-event fatigue and illness. It may even improve your performance. Schisandra extracts have been show to enhance the action of nitric oxide in the circulatory system of athletes – remember this is the chemical that relaxes the blood vessels, allowing for greater blood flow (and oxygen delivery) to the skeletal muscles and the heart. This increased circulation has been correlated with an increase in physical performance.

Schisandra extract may also benefit exercise recovery by reducing lactate accumulation in the muscles after high-intensity exercise. This should help to ease stiffness and soreness the day after a massive workout! [2]

Best 5 Schisandra Supplements

#5 Nature’s Answer Schisandra Alcohol-Free Fluid Extract (1 fl oz)

Nature’s Answer has created a concentrated liquid extract so getting a high, potent dose of schisandra has never been easier (or tastier). One dropper per day is considered a therapeutic dose, and the reviews give it a big thumbs up for boosting energy and vitality! The liquid can be combined with water or fruit juice and is a great choice if you are unable to take capsules.

#4 Moon Juice 100% Organic Schisandra Powder (41g)

This product is marketed as a beauty product due to schisandra’s antioxidant properties, but it’s effects are more than skin deep! This is pure, unadulterated schisandra powder. The fruit has been dried and powdered, and can be taken as a daily tonic. One teaspoon is a pure 2g dose of schisandra – more than a therapeutic dose. It combines easily with water and is delicious in chocolate smoothies, matcha drinks or orange juice.

#3 Schisandra Supreme (504mg, 90 capsules)

Schisandra Supreme is also schisandra simple – all you’ll find in these veggie capsules is the powdered herb. No binders, fillers or additives. Three capsules a day is all it will take to reach a therapeutic dose, making this a convenient choice.

#2 Lost Empire Schisandra Powder 5:1 Concentrate

Lost Empire Herbals have created a highly concentrated, freeze-dried schisandra powder that can be easily added to water or other beverages to create a powerful adaptogenic herbal tonic. They use schisandra berries that have been grown on an organic farm in Massachusetts, and concentrate down five pounds of berries into each pound of powder – no preservatives and no additives. This is a tasty, pure way to get the benefits of schisandra.

#1 Oregon’s Wild Harvest Organic Schisandra (475mg, 90 capsules)

If you’re looking for a pure schisandra capsule, you’ve found it! The only ingredient inside these vegetarian-friendly capsules is organic, dried and powdered schisandra fruit – no additives, fillers or binders. Oregon’s Wild Harvest use organic and non-GMO ingredients in their products, and keep their formulas simple. Two capsules, twice a day would reach a high therapeutic dose.

Further Reading:

  • [1] Tsi, D. & Tan, A., et al. (2008) Evaluation on the combined effect of Sesamin and Schisandra extract on blood fluidity. Bioinformation., 2:6, 249 – 252.
  • [2] Oh, S., et al. (2013) Effect of HX108-CS supplementation on exercise capacity and lactate accumulation after high-intensity exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr., 10, 21.
  • [3] Panossian, A. G., et al. (1999) Effects of heavy physical exercise and adaptogens on nitric oxide content in human saliva. Phytomedicine., 6:1, 17 – 26.
  • [4] Chiu, P. Y. & Ko., K M. (2003) Time-dependent enhancement in mitochondrial glutathione status and ATP generation capacity by schisandrin B treatment decreases the susceptibility of rat hearts to ischemia-reperfusion injury. Biofactors., 1-2, 43 – 51.
  • [5] Ye, B. H., et al. (2015) Preventive effect of gomisin J from Schisandra chinensis on angiotensin II-induced hypertension via an increased nitric oxide bioavailability. Hypertens Res., 38:3, 169 – 177.
  • [6] Park, J. Y., et al. (2012) Gomisin J from Schisandra chinensis induces vascular relaxation via activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase. Vascul Pharmacol., 57:2, 124 – 130.
  • [7] Chun, J. N., et al. (2014) The protective effects of Schisandra chinensis fruit extract and its lignans against cardiovascular disease: A review of the molecular mechanisms. Fitoterapia., 97, 224 – 233.
  • [8] Spoza, A., et al. (2017) Current knowledge of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. (Chinese magnolia vine) as a medicinal plant species: a review on the bioactive components, pharmacological properties, analytical and biotechnological studies. Phytochem Res., 16:2, 195 – 218.
  • [9] Sun, J. L., et al. (2009) [Effects of schisandra on the function of the pituitary-adrenal cortex, gonadal axis and carbohydrate metabolism in rats undergoing experimental chronic psychological stress, navigation and strenuous exercise]. ZNKX., 15:2, 126 – 129.
  • [10] Kim, M. H., et al. (2017) Schizandra chinensis exhibits phytoestrogenic effects by regulating the activation of estrogen receptor-α and -β. Chin J Integr Med.
  • [11] Yan, et al. (2016) Schisandra chinensis produces the antidepressant-like effects in repeated corticosterone-induced mice via the BDNF/TrkB/CREB signaling pathway. Psychiatry Res., 243., 135 – 142.
  • [12] Choo, S. H., et al. (2014) Effects of Schisandra chinensis extract on the relaxation of isolated human prostate tissue and smooth muscle cell. J Ethnopharmacol., 156, 271 – 276.
  • [13] Lee, K., et al. (2018) Deoxyschizandrin, Isolated from Schisandra Berries, Induces Cell Cycle Arrest in Ovarian Cancer Cells and Inhibits the Protumoural Activation of Tumour-Associated Macrophages. Nutrients., 10:1.
  • [14] Lim, P. H. C. (2017) Asian herbals and aphrodisiacs used for managing ED. Trans Androl Urol., 6:2, 167 – 175.
About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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