3 Benefits of Schisandra: Dosage, Safety, & Preparation

Schisandra is an adaptogenic plant that has been used for its various health benefits. This herb is also known as “five-flavor berry” (or wu wei zi in Chinese), due to …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Schisandra is an adaptogenic plant that has been used for its various health benefits.

This herb is also known as “five-flavor berry” (or wu wei zi in Chinese), due to its complex flavor that’s said to contain all five flavors.

Studies have shown that schisandra has adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, astringent, energy-enhancing, and immune-supporting properties.

In this article, we will look in-depth at the health benefits of schisandra, as well as its safety and history.

health benefits of schisandra berries

What is Schisandra?

Schisandra is a vine plant that grows in northern regions with cold climates. It can be found growing wildly in China, Russia, and throughout Korea.

This herb is called by a few different names, including magnolia vine, five flavor berry, and wu wei zi.

The berry is the primary medicinal part of the plant that is used. It has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is said to tonify the Qi (i.e. the body’s “vital force”).

Schisandra is reported to have a wide variety of health benefits, however, it is primarily known for its ability to improve mental performance and increase work capacity.

As an adaptogen, it also helps to balance stress in the body.

In recent years its liver-protective properties have been heavily studied. Initial reports are very promising.

We’ll look into these health benefits in more detail below.

Benefits of Schisandra:

A variety of different types of studies have been conducted on schisandra, including human clinical trials, pharmacological research, and animal studies.

health benefits of schisandra

1. May Improve Brain Health

Schisandra is said to increase cognitive function.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study found that an herbal supplement combination of schisandra, rhodiola, and eleuthero helped to improve attention, brain speed, and accuracy when doing stressful mental tasks. The participants of the study were females that identified as having chronic stress.

The participants took a 270mg tablet of schisandra extract. The brain-boosting benefits were measured over a two-hour window after consumption.

While this study shows promise for schisandra, it should be noted that it only contained 40 participants. A larger clinical trial would be ideal for backing up the results of this study.

Schisandra has also been studied for use in individuals with neurological diseases. It’s thought that schisandra has an impact through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as its ability to regulate neurotransmitters.

Additionally, initial animal studies show that schisandra has neuroprotective properties. Clinical research is needed to verify these claims.

Animal studies also have shown that schisandra is able to reduce depressive-like behaviors.


Schisandra may be beneficial in increasing congitive function, although additional human studies are needed to confirm these findings.

2. May Support Liver Protection

Schisandra has been well documented for its use in protecting the liver. This hepatoprotective activity is due to the various lignans found in schisandra.

In 2013, a randomized, parallel, placebo-controlled study investigated the effect of a combination product containing schisandra and sesame (Sesamum indicum, Pedaliaceae) seed extracts on liver function, 40 patients with borderline liver dysfunction were randomly assigned to experimental or placebo groups.

The subjects were given 34.4 mg/kg per day of S. chinensis fruit extract with sesamin or placebo for five months.

Blood samples were taken and assayed at pre-intake and each month for six months post-intake. After five months, liver function and fatty liver were improved, antioxidant capacity was increased, and oxidative stress was greatly reduced. The researchers recommended further study so that schisandra’s mechanisms of action could be identified.

Other in vitro studies show that phytochemicals within schisandra, specifically gomisin A, schisandrin B, and γ-schisandrin, help to increase the number of hepatocytes (i.e. liver cells).


Schisandra may help protect the liver, however, further research is required to confirm this finding.

3. May Promote Physical Stamina

Schisandra is reported to have stamina-boosting properties.

Initial research in Russia in the 1950s showed that schisandra has many benefits for athletes and workers with labor-intensive jobs.

These studies are hard to get ahold of, but an excellent scholarly review of the literature has been crafted. Below is a brief overview of some of the early human clinical trials.

•One study found that 2 mL of schisandra extract to groups (n = 8–10) of male subjects significantly increased their working capacity and physical force by 24%–42% over a 3-hour period.

•Another study observed a 49.2% increase in the working capacity of 19 healthy individuals who had been treated with schisandra seed extract and then subjected to an ergographic procedure.

• In an early study when 6g of schisandra seed extract (or placebo) was administered to soldiers undertaking a 20 km ski run, it resulted in a shortage of breath and exhaustion, the elimination of the feeling of thirst and dryness in the mouth, and a reduction in muscular pain and the time taken to complete the run.

•In another study involving highly trained gymnasts, it was established that although initial usage resulted in a decrease in working capacity and intensity of training, further doses significantly increased physical capabilities compared with the initial values. Moreover, the level of intensity of training attained during treatment remained the same even after administration of the phytoadaptogen had ceased.

•Another study completed in 1965 showed that when schisandra extract was consumed by oarsmen at times of 1, 2, or 3 h prior to physical exertion, there were improvements in the function of the respiratory & cardiovascular systems, increases in hand muscle power, decreases in weight loss, and reductions in the times taken to cover the prescribed distances.

All of these studies give a flavor of the potential use of schisandra for athletes. Although it needs further study, it does appear that it has some specific adaptive benefits for athletes.


Schisandra may increase physical stamina, but additional research is needed for verification.
schisandra health benefits

Schisandra Safety:

Safety Class: 1 (can be safely used when consumed properly)

Interaction Class: C (clinically relevant interactions are known to occur)

Schisandra is generally a well-tolerated herb when taken within the proper dosage range. That said, this herb is known to interact with the enzymes that work to metabolize drugs in the liver.

It’s thought that it works by inhibiting CYP3A, an important enzyme, and protein P-gp, a protein that works to transport drugs, this can lead to an increase in absorption if schisandra is taken with a drug.

As far as adverse reactions, it has been reported that it may occasionally lead to heartburn. Overdose has been associated with abdominal discomfort and burning, cold and sore sensations in the epigastrium, stomach pain, and reduced appetite.

Pregnancy & Lactation:

According to the Botanical Safety Handbook, research was conducted in the 1960s which showed that schisandra had no adverse impact on women who were pregnant.

In fact, it was shown that women who took this herb had a reduction in postpartum hemorrhaging.

Another study conducted in the 1950s showed that this herb was used to induce labor in women who were going through prolonged labor.

No information is known about the safety of schisandra for nursing women.


Tincture (1:5): 2–4 mL (40–80 drops), three or four times per day.

Decoction: Add 1–2 tsp. of the dried berries to 8–10 oz. water. Simmer for 5–10 minutes, then steep for 20–30 minutes. Take 4 oz. three times per day.

Capsules: One to two 400–500 mg capsules, two or three times per day.

Extract Granules (5:1): Take 0.5 grams, mixed in water, one to three times per day.

Naming & Taxonomy:

Schisandra, known scientifically as Schisandra chinensis, is a vine plant in the Schisandraceae family of plants.

It grows in high latitudes with cool climates. It can be found in northern China, eastern Russia, and throughout Korea.

This herb is also known as magnolia vine, five flavor berry, limonnik (Russian), and wu wei zi (literal translation is “five flavor fruit/seed”).

According to ancient Chinese texts, schisandra berries have all five flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty) recognized in TCM. It’s noted that the peel and flesh are sweet and sour, the seed is pungent and bitter, and the whole fruit is salty.

It should be stated that there are two main species of schisandra, these include Schisandra chinensis and Schisandra sphenanthera. Both of these species have been used interchangeably in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and thus are thought to have the same health benefits.

History & Traditional Use:

Schisandra has a long history of use in various traditional medical systems. Most famously, it is often utilized in TCM practice. Because it has all of the tastes, it was said to benefit the five yin organs: the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen.

This plant was so important in traditional Chinese medicine that in the late sixteenth century, officials in the Hezhong region sent large shipments of it to the emperor as part of their tribute.

Schisandra is known as “gomishi” in Japan. It is used for people with coughs, weakness, excess phlegm, and “hood vertigo” (a feeling of congestion around the head).

In Korea, this plant is called “omija”, and the Koreans use it in a similar manner to the Japanese.

In Hong Kong, schisandra is used for treating dysentery, wheezing, jaundice, and spermatorrhea.


Lignans such as schisandrin B, gomisans, and schisan drol A are considered to be active constituents of schisandra. The berries also contain essential oils and vitamin C.


Adaptogen (calming), antiasthmatic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant, hepatoprotective, immune amphoteric, nervine


Schisandra is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It’s a good source of antioxidants and provides many different benefits, especially to cognitive function, liver health, and physical stamina.

In recent years it has gained more popularity as a supplement because studies have shown that it can be generally well-tolerated by most people when taken in appropriate dosages.

If you’re looking for something new to try out this year, consider trying schisandra!

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Szopa, A., Ekiert, R., & Ekiert, H. (2017). Current knowledge of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. (Chinese magnolia vine) as a medicinal plant species: a review on the bioactive components, pharmacological properties, analytical and biotechnological studies. Phytochemistry reviews : proceedings of the Phytochemical Society of Europe, 16(2), 195–218. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11101-016-9470-4

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Yan, T., Wang, N., Liu, B., Wu, B., Xiao, F., He, B., & Jia, Y. (2021). Schisandra chinensis ameliorates depressive-like behaviors by regulating microbiota-gut-brain axis via its anti-inflammation activity. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 35(1), 289–296. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6799

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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