Instead of starting off your day with a cup of coffee, try some schizandra berry supplements to wake up your mind. And if you're too stressed at night to sleep, don't stay up watching late night television; take some schizandra berry supplements to calm you down. How can a single item have such apparently contradictory effects? According to thousands of years of traditional Chinese medicine, schizandra is an "adaptogenic" herb.
In 1958, Russian holistic doctor I.I. Brekhman and his colleague I.V. Dardymov coined the term "adaptogenic" to refer to any herb that "usually has a normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the pathological state." In other words, it doesn't matter whether you're too sleepy or too nervous; either way, schizandra will redirect you from an extreme to an ideal, balanced state. Schizandra may also provide additional medicinal benefits.
Around 2,000 years ago, Shen Nong first referred to schizandra as a valuable adaptogenic tonic. Since then, it has remained one of the most popular adaptogenic herbs in China, where it is taken to promote mental function, strengthen the sex organs and beautify the skin, according to Off the Shelf Natural Health by Mark Mayell.
In Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer, Donald R. Yance Jr. lists many of schizandra's uses, which include increasing mental and physical exercise capacities, as well as improving adaptability to darkness and other environmental stresses. Yance points out that, unlike caffeine, schizandra stimulates the central nervous system without creating an excitatory effect. Schizandra provides a mental boost without the jitteriness caused by caffeine.
Recent studies suggest that schizandra may offer some additional health benefits. According to Dr. Sheldon Saul Hendler's Vitamin and Mineral Encyclopedia, some research studies demonstrate that substances extracted from schizandra may help treat liver disorders. Other studies show that schizandra extracts may have cortisone-like effects on the immune system. These benefits definitely deserve more research interest, as schizandra may someday provide safer alternatives for traditional pharmaceutical medications.
The Chinese refer to schizandra tonic as the "five-flavored seed" because it tastes sour, bitter, sweet, acrid and salty. However, you don't have to taste its five flavors in order to obtain the benefits of schizandra. Schizandra berry supplements are becoming increasingly available at local stores worldwide and they are already easily purchased on the internet. Viable-herbal.com offers schizandra capsules for $6.62 a bottle, and be sure to browse through your local health food stores and the internet yourself for possibly better deals.
The experts speak on schizandra:
In the Far East, everyone from Chinese emperors to family herbalists has long recognized the remarkable powers of the herb schisandra to promote longevity and increase stamina. Its strengthening effect (see Chapter 4) is combined with system-balancing properties, making it ideal for such conditions as fatigue, nervous exhaustion, and lack of energy. Schisandra is one of the most popular adaptogenic herbs in China, where it is taken to beautify the skin, strengthen the sex organs, and promote mental function. Its use has more recently spread to Russia, Scandinavia, Western Europe, and the United States.
Off The Shelf Natural Health How To Use Herbs And Nutrients To Stay Well By Mark Mayell, page 292
(An adaptogenic herb) must be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism, it must have a nonspecific action, and it usually has a normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the pathological state.
Brekhman, I.I. & Dardymov, I.V. "New substances of plant origin which increase nonspecific resistance," Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology,
as quoted in Edward C. Wallace's Adaptogenic Herbs: Nature's Solution to Stress (The Chiropractic Research Organization)
The dried berry of schizandra, like astragalus, bupleurum, ginseng, and ligusticum, is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for its adaptogenic properties and as a restorative remedy for immune enhancement. Schizandra is referred to as the five-flavored seed because its taste includes the five tastes of sour, bitter, sweet, acrid, and salty. In Shen Nong's Herbal Classic (written about two thousand years ago) and in the Compendium of Materia Medica (written by L.I. Shizhen in 1596), schizandra was referred to as a valuable tonic— an adaptogen with a diversity of indications for its use. It has a stimulatory effect on the central nervous system without being excitatory and enhances both mental and physical capabilities.
Herbal Medicine Healing Cancer by Donald R Yance Jr, page 108
Substances have been isolated from schizandra which appear to have protective effects against liver toxins in mice. And there are reports that extracts of the herb are beneficial in the treatment of various liver disorders in experimental animals. Immunomodulating substances have also been isolated from the herb, some of which have cortisone-like effects. Schizandra may prove to have some role in modern medicine yet, but it's doubtful that it will be a miraculous one.
Vitamin And Mineral Encyclopedia by Sheldon Saul Hendler MD PhD, page 326
Schizandra is also considered adaptogenic and a tonic, according to a review of its traditional use as well as a review of the scientific studies that demonstrate its ability to increase work capacity, exercise capacity, mental capacity, and adaptability to darkness and other environmental stresses in both animal and human studies.
Herbal Medicine Healing Cancer by Donald R Yance Jr, page 109
The formula contains schisandra, zizyphus, cistanche, and juglans, used to enhance energy; tang kuei and lycium, which nourish blood; acornus, to improve circulation; arisaema, to resolve phlegm; and gastrodia and succinum to calm anxiety, seizures, forgetfulness, and insomnia. In addition, the formula contains "dragon tooth," a calcium source, along with biota seed and polygala root acting as nourishing sedatives. It is interesting to note in this formula that both anxiety and forgetful-ness are treated with blood- and energy-building herbs. This proves again that having adequate yin and yang normalizes physical and mental processes.
Asian Health Secrets by Letha Hadady DAc, page 452
Schizandra berries (for stimulation) with Senega, Cayenne, Gotu Kola, and Fo Ti Tieng in teas (helps energize and preserve the brain and body, noted for making geniuses, rids retardation).
Anti-Aging Manual by Joseph B Marion, page 9
There are many herbs that are reputed to influence mental function. A partial list includes (bacopa monniera), cordyceps, gotu kola, rosemary, maca, Fo-ti, reishi, and schisandra. Then there are foodlike supplements such as spirulina, blue-green algae, and royal jelly. The research with many of these supplements is very limited. I am certain that some of them do have an effect since I have personally noticed increased alertness and energy levels when I've taken royal jelly, maca, and gotu kola.
Mind Boosters by Dr Ray Sahelia MD, page 187
Panax ginseng, and Siberian ginseng. brain Power Plus also contains red-date extract, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine to enhance the activity of ginseng; schizandra, a powerful antioxidant that assists with mental clarity and increases your body's level of the detoxifying enzyme glutathione; and the traditional Indian "brain tonic" gotu kolu, which is used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve mental agility and reduce anxiety and depression. See the "Guide to Sources and Availability" on page 151 for the source of brain Power Plus.
Underground Cures by Health Sciences Institute, page 153
The combination of ginseng root and schisandra berries reportedly improves memory (reported in Huang, 1999).
The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook by Alan Keith Tillotson, page 198