Schisandra is a woody vine native to eastern Asia. It winds around the trunks of trees, covering the branches. The white flowers produce small red berries that may grow in clusters. Traditionally, the berries are harvested in the fall, dried, and then ground to make the powdered medicinal herb. The seeds of the fruit contain
lignans, which are believed to be active constituents.
Schisandra has long been used in the traditional medicines of Russia and China for a wide variety of conditions including asthma, coughs, and other respiratory ailments, diarrhea, insomnia, impotence, and kidney problems. Hunters and athletes have used schisandra in the belief that it will increase endurance and combat fatigue under physical stress.
More recently, schisandra has been studied for potential liver-protective effects.
Schisandra has not been proven effective for any condition. Research on the herb is limited to studies in animals, as well as human trials that are not up to modern scientific standards.
suggest schisandra may protect the liver from toxic damage, improve
liver function, and stimulate liver cell regrowth.1-6
These findings led to its use in human trials for treating
hepatitis. In a poorly designed and reported Chinese study of 189 people with hepatitis B, those given schisandra reportedly improved more rapidly than those given vitamins and liver extracts.7
Other animal studies of schisandra have found possible
Finally, weak evidence hints that schisandra or its extracts might
enhance sports performance
improve mental function.11-15
Schisandra comes in capsules, tinctures, powder, tablets, and extracts. Common dosages are 1.5 to 6 g daily.
Studies in mice, rats, and pigs have found schisandra to be relatively nontoxic.16 Noticeable side effects are apparently rare, though upset stomach and allergic reactions have been reported.17
Safety in pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Hancke JL, Burgos RA, Ahumada F.
Volicer L, Sramka M, Janku I, et al. Some pharmacological effects of
Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther. 1966;163:249-262.
Bao T-T, Xu G-F, Liu G-T, et al. A comparison of the pharmacological actions of seven constituents isolated from
[in Chinese; English abstract]
. Acta Pharm Sin.
Pao T-T, Hsu K-F, Liu K-T, et al. Protective action of Schizandrin B on hepatic injury in mice.
Chin Med J. 1977;3:173-180.
Li X-Y. Bioactivity of neolignans from
Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 1991;86:31-37.
Liu G-T. Pharmacological actions and clinical use of
Chin Med J.
Liu J, Xiao P-G. Recent advances in the study of antioxidative effects of Chinese medicinal plants.
Phytother Res. 1994;8:445-451.
Hancke JL, Burgos RA, Ahumada F.
Ahumada F, Hermosilla J, Hola R, et al. Studies on the effect of
extract on horses submitted to exercise and maximum effort.
Phytother Res. 1989;3:175-179.
Ahumada F, Hola R, Wikman G, et al. Effect of
extract on thoroughbreds in sprint races.
Equine Athlete. 1991;4:1, 4-5.
Hancke J, Burgos R, Cceres D, et al. Reduction of serum hepatic transaminases and CPK in sport horses with poor performance treated with a standardized
Hancke J, Burgos R, Wikman G, et al.
a potential phytodrug for recovery of sport horses.
McGuffin M, ed.
American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1997:104.
Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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