Goji berries, acai berries, sea buckthorn berries, yumberries, macqui berries, blueberries…all considered “superfruits” for their nutritional content and antioxidant potential. I’m sure you’ve heard of at least a few of those, but you likely have not heard of what could very well be considered the original super-berry: the adaptogenic Schisandra berry.
The berries of the Schisandra chinensis plant have been used in Traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean medicine for thousands of years. They are known as “wu wei zi” in TCM which means “five flavor berry”. You see, these berries have the very unique property of possessing all five flavors of TCM: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. Because it possesses all five
flavors, it benefits the 5 yin organs: liver, kidney, heart, lungs and spleen. It is widely used as a tonic remedy to increase energy and fight fatigue.
As an adaptogen, Schisandra berry displays the required properties to be considered a true adaptogen: non-toxic; reduces stress; non-specific benefits (works throughout the entire body) and normalizing. It has been shown to decrease fatigue, increase physical work capacity and promote endurance and stamina. They are also quite useful for the immune system, particularly during times of stress. When we are stressed, our bodies are more susceptible to infections like colds and flus.
I’m sure it’s happened to you. When you think that nothing else could possibly go wrong, you wake one morning with a splitting headache, sore throat and a nasty cough. Our defenses are down when we are under lots of stress. Schisandra can stop that from happening. These little red berries keep our immune systems alert and ready to attack invading pathogens even when
we don’t feel like we can attack the next load of laundry.
The benefits don’t stop there. Schisandra also has an unusual dual effect on the nervous system. As I said before, it is used for fatigue and work capacity. These show a somewhat stimulant property on the nervous system. Keep in mind that this only happens when we need it; when we are under stress. At the same time, Schisandra can have a calming effect on the mind and can ease anxiety. These berries can actually increase our resistance to emotional stress and create a platform where we are more equipped and ready to handle the many emotional stressors we face from day to day.
Modern research has shed light on schisandra’s significant benefits for the liver. It is a potent hepatoprotective (liver-protective) herb and has strong antioxidant effects specifically in the liver. Basically, it helps the liver rid the body of toxins – whether they are the result of normal, everyday metabolic processes or something environmental.
It’s incredible that a small red berry would have so many benefits in the body. Now, you could eat these, I suppose. It’s common in China that medicinal plants are added to foods to increase their healing properties. But I’m thinking that the weird flavor profile (first salty, then sweet and sour, then bitter and pungent) may not be appealing to most. Schisandra is widely available as a dietary supplement. It also makes a great complement ingredient in formulation. And remember when the next fad “super-fruit” berry comes around that these little red berries have stood the test of time. They were super 3,000 years ago and still are today.