Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
What is Schisandra?
Schisandra spp. grows as a climbing, aromatic woody vine, with white, pink, yellow, or reddish male or female flowers. The fruits are globular and red with several kidney-shaped seeds. The fruit is harvested in autumn when ripe. S. chinensis is native to northeastern and north central China and is also found in eastern Russia.
Schisandra chinensis, Schisandra arisanensis, Schisandra sphenanthera, Schisandra rubriflora
Schisandra is also known as schizandra, gomishi, hoku-gomishi, kita-gomishi (Japanese), wu-wei-zu (5 taste fruit), ji-chu or hoy tsi (Chinese), omiza (Korean), Maximowich's red grape, Limonnik (Russian).
What is it used for?
Schisandra is one of the many traditional Chinese herbs recommended for coughs and various lung diseases. It has been studied extensively in China and Japan. Schisandra has been used for healing for more than 2,000 years. The Chinese name for the plant, "wu-wei-zu," means "5 taste fruit" and is associated with sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, and salty flavors. Salty and sour tastes were believed to have effects on the liver and testicles, while the bitter and astringent properties were thought to be good for the heart and lungs and the sweet component for the stomach.
Schisandra has been used as a tonic and for liver protection, nervous system effects, respiratory treatment, and GI therapy. However, there are limited clinical trials to support these uses.
What is the recommended dosage?
Schisandra fruit is used to offset stress at dosages of 1.5 to 6 g/day. A standardized extract containing 3.4% schisandrin has been used in a clinical trial for improved athletic performance. Various doses used in Russia include alcohol tinctures of fruit or seeds given as 20 to 30 drops twice daily; water infusion of fruits (1:20 w/v) given as 150 mL twice daily; air-dried fruits 0.5 to 1.5 g twice daily; seed powder 0.5 to 1.5 g twice daily before lunch and dinner over 20 to 30 days; seed alcohol seed extract as a single dose of 0.05 or 0.2 mL/kg.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Safety and effectiveness in pregnancy and lactation is unknown. Compounds from the stem of Schisandra propinqua were found to inhibit rat and human reproductive cells in vitro.
Because of its documented effects on liver and stomach enzymes, schisandra may interfere with the metabolism of other drugs taken at the same time.
There are no reports of adverse effects.
The minimum toxic dose when given orally to mice is 3.6 g/kg. Acute toxicity was studied in mice, and following administration into the body cavity, no effects on blood pressure, breath, or motility were noted; however, high doses (175 to 370 mg/kg) caused convulsions and impaired movement.