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.
What Is Schisandra Used for Today?
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.
Animal studies 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
Schisandra comes in capsules, tinctures, powder, tablets, and extracts. Common dosages are 1.5 to 6 g daily.
Safety in pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
1. Hancke JL, Burgos RA, Ahumada F. Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. Fitoterapia. 1999;70:451-471.
2. Volicer L, Sramka M, Janku I, et al. Some pharmacological effects of Schizandra chinensis. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther. 1966;163:249-262.
3. Bao T-T, Xu G-F, Liu G-T, et al. A comparison of the pharmacological actions of seven constituents isolated from Fructus schizandrae [in Chinese; English abstract] . Acta Pharm Sin. 1979;14:1-7.
4. 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.
5. Li X-Y. Bioactivity of neolignans from Fructus schizandrae. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 1991;86:31-37.
6. Liu G-T. Pharmacological actions and clinical use of Fructus schizandrae. Chin Med J. 1989;102:740-749.
7. Liu G-T. Pharmacological actions and clinical use of Fructus schizandrae. Chin Med J. 1989;102:740-749.
8. Hancke JL, Burgos RA, Ahumada F. Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. Fitoterapia. 1999;70:451-471.
9. Liu J, Xiao P-G. Recent advances in the study of antioxidative effects of Chinese medicinal plants. Phytother Res. 1994;8:445-451.
10. Liu G-T. Pharmacological actions and clinical use of Fructus schizandrae. Chin Med J. 1989;102:740-749.
11. Hancke JL, Burgos RA, Ahumada F. Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. Fitoterapia. 1999;70:451-471.
12. Ahumada F, Hermosilla J, Hola R, et al. Studies on the effect of Schizandra chinensis extract on horses submitted to exercise and maximum effort. Phytother Res. 1989;3:175-179.
13. Ahumada F, Hola R, Wikman G, et al. Effect of Schizandra chinensis extract on thoroughbreds in sprint races. Equine Athlete. 1991;4:1, 4-5.
14. 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 Schizandra chinensis fruit extract. Phytomedicine. 1996;3:237-240.
15. Hancke J, Burgos R, Wikman G, et al. Schizandra chinensis, a potential phytodrug for recovery of sport horses. Fitoterapia. 1994;65:113-118.
16. Hancke JL, Burgos RA, Ahumada F. Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. Fitoterapia. 1999;70:451-471.
17. McGuffin M, ed. American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1997:104.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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