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Schisandra

Benefits of Schisandra

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Updated March 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is an herb that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Derived from the fruit of a vine native to China and Russia, schisandra is sometimes known as "five flavor berry."

Uses for Schisandra

In traditional Chinese medicine, schisandra is often used to treat cough, wheezing, and diarrhea. Schisandra is also often touted as a natural remedy for these health problems:

Possible Benefits of Schisandra

To date, the health effects of schisandra have yet to be extensively studied. However, research suggests that schisandra may be of some use in treating the following conditions:

1) Cardiovascular Problems

In Korean medicine, schisandra is sometimes used to treat cardiovascular symptoms associated with menopause. In a study published in 2009, researchers tested schisandra's vascular effects on a group of rats, finding that the herb helped reduce tension in blood vessel walls. Although this finding suggests that schisandra may help improve blood flow and enhance blood vessel health, more research is needed before schisandra can be recommended in the treatment of cardiovascular problems.

2) Inflammation

Schisandra contains compounds that may help fight inflammation, according to a test-tube study published in 2009. Scientists found that schisandra extract helped curb the production of inflammatory cytokines (molecules that can contribute to the onset of chronic disease when overactivated).

3) Stress-Related Fatigue

In herbal medicine, schisandra is often used as an adaptogen (a class of herbs said to boost the body's resistance to stress of all kinds). In a research review published in 2009, investigators note that there's "good scientific evidence" that schisandra may increase endurance and mental performance in people with mild stress-related fatigue.

A number of other herbs have been found to possess similar properties; these include rhodiola, ginseng, and ashwagandha.

How to Use Schisandra

Schisandra is available in capsule, tablet, tincture, and powder form. Given the lack of scientific research on schisandra's health effects, it's important to consult your health-care provider if you're considering the use of schisandra in treatment or prevention of any health condition.

Schisandra Side Effects

Schisandra may cause heartburn in some patients.

Sources:

Ci X, Ren R, Xu K, Li H, Yu Q, Song Y, Wang D, Li R, Deng X. "Schisantherin A Exhibits Anti-inflammatory Properties by Down-Regulating NF-kappaB and MAPK Signaling Pathways in Lipopolysaccharide-Treated RAW 264.7 Cells." Inflammation. 2009 Nov 14.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "About Herbs: Schisandra". January 28, 2010.

Panossian A, Wikman G. "Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity." Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009 4(3):198-219.

Park JY, Shin HK, Lee YJ, Choi YW, Bae SS, Kim CD. "The mechanism of vasorelaxation induced by Schisandra chinensis extract in rat thoracic aorta." J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 12;121(1):69-73.

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