If you’re in the health and natural foods community, you might have heard about schizandra berries. It’s making the rounds again as one of the most underrated health foods out there. If you haven’t heard of this supplement before, here’s what you need to know.
What Is It?
Schizandra is a plant that is grown in northern China and eastern and northern Russia. The name comes from the Chinese language, and means “the five flavor berry.” Berries that grow on the schizandra plant are said to be salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and pungent or spicy – all at once.
The plant itself grows as a vine, which typically climbs around tree trunks. The berries are small and red, which are edible.
Some believe the berries also have medicinal properties. People in China, Russia, Korea, and Japan have been eating them for years, and use schizandra for its purported health and medicinal qualities. Traditionally, the extract and products that contain the schizandra berries are used to treat conditions like respiratory illness, diarrhea, asthma, impotence, insomnia, and liver and kidney dysfunction.
It’s also been used by some athletes to improve their endurance and counteract fatigue.
In traditional Chinese medicine, schizandra is one of 50 fundamental herbs used to treat illness. It’s considered special because of the five flavors that correspond to the five elements of wood, water, fire, earth, and metal.
Health Benefits of Schizandra Berries
Some of the benefits of the schizandra include liver protection, protection from cancer, endurance and stamina, respiratory health, stress reduction, immune system boosting, better sleep, longevity and vitality, mental stimulation, cardiovascular health, sexual health, and better skin health.
The American-grown Schizandra is very similar to the Chinese-grown herb, and is used for the same purposes. In fact, many believe the American version of the berry is better because the source of growers is known, and America has better quality control measures than some countries in which it is grown overseas.
Regardless, if you suffer from any of the conditions that the berries might help you with, it may be beneficial to add this to your supplement regimen.
- For liver protection: Animal studies show that schizandra helps protect the liver from the damage caused by toxins in the environment and from diet. It improves the overall functioning of the liver and stimulates growth of new liver cells.
- Protection from cancer: There is some limited evidence that schizandra might help protect against cancer, or even kill cancerous cells. However, the research is limited. In one study, a substance found in schizandra, dubbed schisandran C, stopped the growth of cancer cells in a lab.
- Endurance and stamina: Some athletes and hunters in China have used schizandra to combat fatigue and improve mental clarity.
- Respiratory health: Some people have used schizandra to help get relief from respiratory illness. Specifically, it helps reduce coughing and may help those with asthma breathe more easily.
- Stress reduction: Schizandra can reduce your stress levels, and it acts as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbs that promote homeostasis.
- Improved immune function: Schizandra is thought to improve the immune system by supporting it and lowering stress.
- Better sleep: People who use schizandra sometimes report improves sleep, and reduced insomnia.
- Longevity: Some people believe that schizandra improves vitality and longevity. The berries are rich in antioxidants, and they have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
- Sexual health: The schizandra berry is thought to improve blood flow and thus sexual health. It’s been used to treat impotence.
- Mental stimulation: The berries can promote brain health and activity, help you feel more invigorated, and energetic. They can also improve focus, concentration, and memory.
- Cardiovascular health: The berries have been used in Korea to improve cardiovascular health and function. It is thought that they improve blood flow and promote health of blood vessels.
Is It Safe?
Schizandra is considered safe for more people. Research is limited, however, so you should consult with your doctor before taking it as it’s unknown as to how it may interact with some medications.
There is a chance that the supplement could promote contraction of the uterus, which might lead to a miscarriage. Therefore, pregnant women shouldn’t use schizandra.
How To Use It
Many people take the supplement form as a pill, while others eat the berries whole. But, most often, it’s used in powdered form, and blended into smoothies or taken as a pill. Nature’s Way Schizandra Fruit is affordable and comes in easy to swallow capsule form.
The powdered berry extract is made from ripe schizandra berries. This process locks in the nutritional benefits and concentrates the berry’s power. A general guideline is that you should use between one quarter and one teaspoon every day for optimal effect.